How To Be a Good Listener as a Leader
If you ask many great business leaders what their most important quality is, listening is almost always up there near the top.
Most people don’t realise it’s a skill not a quality. You have to learn to be a good listener.
And, unless you put in the time to develop this particular skill, you’ll only be half the leader you want to be.
As inspirational speaker and author Stephen Covey put it: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Listening is a Full-Time Job
When we don’t listen effectively it’s because we’re concentrating too much ourselves.
We’re figuring out what we’re going to say or do next.
We want to interrupt and get our point across.
In other words, we’re eager to stop listening and begin talking.
Listening is more than just sitting passively.
It’s about picking up cues such as body language, the nuance and context of what someone is saying, as well as their mood.
Most of us think we are good listeners.
Quite a few of us, however, are exactly the opposite.
If you’re a leader you need this essential skill to be successful. And you really need to work at it.
The first step to better listening is actually giving a damn.
That may sound a little simplistic but when you’re a leader it’s not just the productivity and results that are important for your business.
The welfare of those people under you is vital and, if you can show that you really care about them and what they say, they’ll feel a stronger connection to you.
It’s not just your employees that you need to be engaged it’s you too.
These are real people and not just assets for your business.
As a leader, you need to engage yourself more actively and be able to understand the world from their point of view.
Don’t just let opinions wash over you, make the effort to come back with questions and explore possibilities.
Drill a little deeper and you will begin to understand more implicitly what people are saying and how they are feeling.
It’s easy to get into the habit of judging a person and letting this influence your opinion of what they are saying.
Unfortunately, this practice can quickly get in the way of the truth.
This is particularly true when someone has a different way of doing things or an alternative belief that doesn’t quite fit your own world view.
The problem here is that you can very easily end up missing something important.
Good leaders are mature enough to listen to new or contrary ideas and not feel threatened or swayed by them.
Many leaders associate empathy with emotion and it can be a difficult trait to exhibit if you’re not a natural.
It’s a question of keeping your head in tune with your heart.
To be a good listener you need to demonstrate empathy.
Show concern for what the other person is saying and be prepared to allow that emotion in.
It’s not a sign of weakness but one of strength.
How easy it sounds but so often it’s the most difficult part of being a good listener.
Interrupting with your own opinions is what we were talking about at the beginning of this article.
It’s you preparing to say something in response rather than actually listening.
Great leaders know how to let people have their say.
Finally, with such an important skill, it’s strange that less than 2% of professionals have had any training to develop their listening skills at all.
That’s quite a remarkable statistic when you consider the positive impact it can have for both employees and leadership.