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
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