Leadership and Listening

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“God gave you two ears and one mouth, and you should use them in that proportion.”

My mother said that. I suppose lots of mothers did. It’s great advice, especially if you’re the boss.

There are three reasons that listening well will help you lead more effectively. Here they are.

When You Listen, You Can Learn

You can’t learn while you’re talking. When you listen, you can learn about your teammates and what’s important to them. You get to hear their stories, their concerns, and their ideas. That can’t happen while you’re talking.

Listening Sends the Message That You Value the Other Person

We listen to people we respect. When you listen to a teammate, you send the message that they’re important to you. You’re giving them time and paying attention. You want to know what they think and feel and want.

Listening Helps You Make Good Decisions

We live in a fast-paced world. It’s tempting to jump right to a decision or opinion, without giving things much thought. Listening slows you down so you can diagnose effectively before you act.

Learn to Listen Well

Learn to listen more effectively. Start by getting rid of as many distractions as possible. Put your phone away. Turn away from that computer screen. Stop doing everything except paying attention and listening.

Show that you’re paying attention. Lean in. Make eye contact. Nod.

Paraphrase what the other person said and ask them if you got it. Don’t move on until the other person says you understand them.

Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to continue and increase your understanding.

Take notes during the conversation if it helps you and doesn’t make the other person uncomfortable. When the conversation is over, make notes about any actions you’ve committed to. Take the time to make sure you and the other person understand things the same way.

Listening is a critical leadership skill that took me a long time to learn. I remembered what my mother said, but I liked to talk. I was the boss, so I could get away with it. It took years to realize that I wasn’t a good listener and that listening was important. Then it took a few more years to develop the basic skills. I’m still working to get better.

Bottom Line

Listening is a critical leadership skill you can master. It will help you learn about the people you work with, demonstrate you think they’re important, and help you make better decisions.

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