Some of the greatest leaders that I’ve known and certainly some of the greatest leaders in history have had many skills. The one skills they all have is the invaluable skill of listening. Listening, taking in everyone’s opinion, and synthesizing the best outcome is an incredibly valuable skill for any leader. The ability to communicate a shared vision is extremely important when it comes to being a good and effective leaders, however, the only way to figure out what the shared vision of the group is is to listen!
Listening is more than just the ability to sit and listen to someone speak about whatever it is they are speaking about. It is the ability to engage the person you are listening to, ask questions, gain information, and show the person that you actually care about what it is that person is saying. The key is to be an “active listener.”
According to www.mindtools.com there are several “key elements” to being an active listener.
The first step is to pay attention. Giving the speaker your undivided attention is not only polite, it will help you get the most out of the communication you are having with the person. You will hear every word and be able to take in the most information possible. Without that information you are at a disadvantage in correctly interpreting their intended message. Mind Tools says to look at the individual directly, put aside any distracting thoughts, don’t mentally prepare your rebuttal (be natural and spontaneous), avoid environmental factors, and pay attention to body language. These things will help you pay attention to and communicate with the speaker.
The next step is to show that you are listening to what they are saying. This should be done using non-verbal communication. Things like nodding, smiling and other facial expressions, your posture being open and inviting, and encouraging the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” and “uh huh” will keep that person engaged and show that you are listening to what they are saying.
Providing feedback is also extremely important. This is not to be confused with providing your opinions on the issue. According to Mind Tools “Our personal filters, assumptions, judgements, and beliefs can distort what we hear.” As a listener, your role is strive to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect and ask questions.” Using phrases like “what I’m hearing is,” and “Sounds like you are saying” are great ways not only to show that you are listening, but it will also help you synthesis the information in your own head. Asking questions to clarify certain points will also help. Make sure you stop to summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.
Suspend all of your judgements of the speaker’s comments. Interrupting wastes time and frustrates the speaker. Allowing the speaker to finish each point before asking questions is extremely important. Make sure you do not interrupt with counter arguments, as this will dilute the speaker’s point.
Lastly, respond appropriately. This model is meant to be respectful and understanding. You as a leader are gaining information and perspective from the people you are trying to lead. “You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.” Be vulnerable and genuine in your responses; people want to feel like they are communicating with a real person. When you do offer your opinions, make sure you do it respectfully and appropriately. Make sure you are treating the other person in a way that you think is respectable and a way that you would like to be treated.
Listening is an extremely important part of leadership. If your followers do not think that they are being listened to, you will find that you are leading nobody but yourself. Sit down with the people around you, ask for their opinion, and listen to what they have to say. You might learn something.
Until Next Time,
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” -Bryant McGill