9 Practical Principles

Charlie’s Thoughts on the Art of Leadership and Listening

  • Hearing someone does not equate to listening to them
    • Everyone has a “voice” and a need to be heard, understood and validated. Simply hearing the words does not ensure that you’re listening to the message
  • Don’t react to the words, understand the meaning
    • When having difficult or challenging conversations, it is better to understand the true meaning of the message, versus reacting to the specific words being used
  • If you ask the question, be interested in the answer
    • People like to share their opinions and perspective.  Actively listening to those opinions and perspectives, especially when in response to your questions, shows you care as a leader.  If you give the perfunctory greeting question “How are you,” take the time to actively hear the response. 
  • The opposite of talking isn’t always hearing; it’s often waiting: waiting to interrupt
    • Interrupting another’s dialogue or words in order to voice your own thought or response will stifle effective communication.  Wait your turn!
  • Being a good listener doesn’t mean you’ll be a good leader; but a hallmark of a leader, is being a good listener
    • Enough said!
  • Remove physical barriers; get out from behind the desk
    • When meeting with staff, especially one-on-one, move from behind your desk.  Doing so eliminates distractions of papers, computers and telephones and allows you to focus on the conversation and removes barriers to active listening
  • Close the tablets and laptops and put away the smart phones
    • These devices are great for taking notes and remaining “connected”; but they may also lead to distractions and inattention.  How many times have you checked email, calendars or Facebook while in meetings? 
  • Actively listening costs nothing; not listening can be very expensive
    • Nearly every workplace climate or culture study that I have seen during my career lists “communication” as an area requiring attention.  A great deal of time, energy and effort is invested in improving communication systems, processes and channels; when often leadership not “listening” to staff is at the core of the actual problem.
  • What does active listening look like?
    • Make eye contact with those who are speaking
    • Give positive reinforcement and appropriate feedback
    • Remember what is said
    • Ask appropriate follow-up questions
    • Reflect on the words said to understand the meaning intended
    • Clarify if you aren’t sure
    • At the end, summarize what you heard to make sure you have it right