Leaders of today’s organizations must be good listeners. Listening is an attitude towards others. Are you a good listener? When we do not listen to others, we are telling them that they are not important. Have you ever checked your cell phone while someone else was talking to you? How about looked at other people walking by while someone was talking to you? Have you ever interrupted someone while he/she was talking because you thought of something else to say?
When we do those things (and we all do), we tell others that they are not important. When we are looking at our phone while someone is talking, we are essentially saying that our phone is more important right now. When we are watching other people while someone is talking to us, we are letting the speaker know that other people walking by are more important. If we are thinking about what we want to say while someone else is talking, then we are sending the attitude that what we have to say is more important than what others are saying. If we develop a pattern of letting others think they are not important enough for our time, then we cannot expect them to give us all their effort when it is time for a task.
In order to be effective, leaders must recognize that listening is an important leadership skill. Leaders should take intentional action to improve listening skills with the purpose of becoming a better leader. Great leaders are able to show an attitude of respect and caring towards others.
How can leaders become better listeners? First, leaders should practice listening to others by paying attention and keeping focused on the speakers. In addition leaders can listen better to others by being present in the conversation to build a deeper relationship with the speaker.
Next, leaders should listen with body language. Great leaders who listen well understand the importance of eye contact and a positive body stance that lets the speaker know that the leader is listening and open to learn. Additionally, leaders use their body language to send the message that they are actively a part of the conversation.
The third way a leader can improve listening skills is to listen with perspective. Effective leaders understand that we all hear with our own individual perspectives. Leaders who are great at listening understand how to be aware of their own biases and experiences that may alter their perspective of what is being said. Leaders listen well because they understand that effective communication is dependent on listening well.
Next, leaders listen with feedback. By nodding and asking questions, effective leaders allow the speaker to understand that they are actively listening to what is being said. Great leaders work hard to connect to the message by occasionally restating what the speaker has said.
Finally, leaders listen with intention. Great leaders are always looking for opportunities to build relationships and connect to the Mission of an organization as well as personal goals. Leaders intentionally pay attention to the speaker with the purpose of learning something new and building a relationship with the speaker that will allow for mutual support toward obtaining goals.
Listening is an important leadership skill and effective leaders in today’s organizations, communities, and families will benefit from continual development of their listening skills.