Recently, we wrote about five ways for leaders to improve their communication skills. And while it’s important to effectively convey goals and expectations, it’s just as important to listen to peers and employees.
Listening is an integral facet included under the communication and interaction umbrella. Most of the time, leaders – and people in general – want to chime in with advice or a solution. However, just listening can be a lot more beneficial. It helps leaders to focus, gather all the facts and see the bigger picture. It makes employees feel like they matter and that their concerns are being taken seriously.
There are 10 strategies that leaders can apply in order to fine-tune their listening skills and disrupt their current habits:
1) Face the speaker – this form of body language shows attentiveness and respect
2) Maintain eye contact to the degree where everyone remains comfortable – this shows interest and places value on speaker
3) Minimize external distractions – stop everything and focus on the speaker and what is being said
4) Minimize internal distractions – clear the mind and bring attention back to the present moment (for tips on how to do this, click here)
5) Respond appropriately – nodding and saying “mmm-hmm” shows alertness and understanding
6) Focus solely on what is being said – this goes back to point #4 – clear thoughts and try not to think about what to say next
7) Keep an open mind – avoid assumptions and zone in on what is actually being said
8) Refrain from interrupting – waiting until the speaker is completely finished allows them to fully express themselves
9) Focus on what matters most – letting the speaker talk it out while listening attentively shows interest and acknowledgement
10) Engage – ask questions to get clarification but again, wait for the speaker to finish before doing so
Dr. Ralph Nichols, founder and developer of the ‘field of listening,’ said that “the most basic of human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
Every time we communicate with one another, we are either adding value or taking up space. Most of us like to believe that we are the ones adding value and that everyone else is taking up space; so, we tend to ignore what’s being said or tune out completely.
A study based on more than 1,000 Fortune 100 companies found that workers send and receive more than 1,800 messages per day through telephone, email, face-to-face interactions, memos and papers; yet, 75% of that time they’re distracted, preoccupied or just plain forgetful. Because of this, it is important to look for ways to be an engaged listener, build trust and assume positive intent of the speaker. Removing preconceived ideas in order to be completely open to listening; noticing and stopping our self-consciousness from smothering our ability to communicate properly will allow for active listening and create greater understanding.
In these times of “fake news” and mixed messages, we challenge you to disrupt your listening patterns and hear what’s really being said.