Listen Up! 5 Ways To Improve Your Leadership Listening Skills

Learn about 5 strategies leaders can employ to improve their leadership listening skills.

The following is a guest piece by Jackie Edwards.

Are you part of the 25 per cent of leaders who aren’t really listening to their employees? It could be harming your reputation and career. Even though you might have great analytical skills and intelligence, not listening properly decreases the effectiveness of your leadership role.

Become a better listener and everyone wins: your employees feel part of a team and you can lead them to success.

There are some simple yet effective ways you can become a better listener. Try to exercise the following skills on a daily basis.

1. Don’t Just Listen – Be A “360 Listener”
Hearing what your employees are telling you isn’t enough. Remember that most communication is non-verbal. Instead of just paying half-hearted attention to their words, really listen and also follow nonverbal cues. These will improve how you engage with them and give you greater insight into what they’re saying.

According to Harvard Business Review, “360 listening” is when you not only listen to what people say but how they say it – and even what they don’t say. When you pay attention to verbal and nonverbal clues, such as facial expressions, tone of voice and body language, you gain a greater understanding of what someone’s saying and make them feel acknowledged.

2. Don’t Be A Phubber!
“Phubbing” (or “phone snubbing”) is when you’re focusing so much on your electronic device that you don’t pay attention to the person who’s talking to you. Yes, you’re busy and stressed, but phubbing makes you seem rude and distracted instead of a skilled multi-tasker.

It can also make your employees feel that you’re not interested in them, which is sure to create resentment. A survey of 200 US adults published on CNN found that being too preoccupied with smartphones in the office damages workplace relationships and productivity.

Force yourself to put your phone on airplane mode during team meetings and one-on-one interactions to eliminate distractions. When you give your full attention to people, you show them that you value them and don’t take them for granted.

3. Learn New Things
You might not listen properly because you’re tired, stressed or busy. But just think of everything you’re missing if you don’t engage in active listening to your team. There are valuable ideas, opportunities to resolve workplace conflict, and networking possibilities found right there in daily communication – and they’re completely available to you!

When your team feels heard and not judged, they will be more likely to keep the communication lines to you open, which can be a valuable resource so you stay on top of workplace dynamics.

4. Make Them The Focus
If you show your employees that you value their opinions and thoughts, instead of just trying to express your own views, you create a team that wants to achieve because they’re confident.

When researchers analyzed the behavior of over 3,000 managers, the results published in Harvard Business Review identified what makes a great listener. What they found is that one of the most important things a great listener does is boost people’s self-esteem. This makes the conversation a positive experience for both parties. Employees will feel supported and confident after the exchange, which will increase their motivation.

You can build your team’s self-esteem by giving them a safe space in which to share their views and concerns. When people feel you’ve got their back and genuinely care about them, they’ll be much more willing to listen to you in return.

5. Listen From A Place Of Emotional Intelligence
In the workplace, people tend to focus on IQ instead of EQ, or emotional intelligence, yet it can be a valuable resource. When you have high emotional intelligence, you’re empathetic, compassionate and patient. These should be the cornerstones of your listening activity.

When you give people a chance to speak, allow them to express their thoughts without rushing or interrupting them. Try to understand situations from their perspective and empathize with their troubles.

A good tip is to repeat the message back to the person after they’ve expressed it, so that everyone understands it correctly and you show the person that you’ve given them your time. This also helps to prevent misunderstandings that can potentially lead to costly errors and bad decisions. If you’re willing to step into your employees’ shoes, they’ll be more likely to want to walk in the path you’ve outlined for them.

Great listening is one of the most important skills a manager can possess. It encourages healthier work relationships, boosts team spirit and places goals you want to achieve in easier reach because you’ll have a whole team backing you up every step of the way.

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Tanveer Naseer is an award-winning and internationally-acclaimed leadership writer and keynote speaker. He is also the Principal and Founder of Tanveer Naseer Leadership, a leadership coaching firm that works with executives and managers to help them develop practical leadership and team-building competencies to guide organizational growth and development. Tanveer’s writings and insights on leadership and workplace interactions have been featured in a number of prominent media and organization publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, Inc Magazine, Canada’s national newspaper “The Globe and Mail”, The Economist Executive Education Navigator, and the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center.

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