Today, a leader must be an excellent communicator. They must be able to delegate effortlessly, motivate the team, and must be good at both verbal and written communications. But communication is a two-way street. Leaders also need to be active, patient and responsive listeners. While being outspoken and communicating clearly are two of the many attributes necessary for one to become a leader, it is listening that makes one a better leader.
How listening can make anyone a better leader
In the workplace, a leader is expected to address problems and initiate improvements. Certain problems will be obvious and a leader must be able to identify them. But, many problems are not so obvious. The only way a leader can get to know those issues is if they listen to the team or any particular member of the team. People should be able to come up to a leader with their problems and a leader must not spurn them.
Many leaders fail to actually hear what others have to say. They shrug at what is being shared or reported to them. They pretend to listen and forget what has been said soon after. They don’t even offer an audience and even if they listen. They can discard the issues at their whims and fancies. Such approaches are unbecoming of a leader.
The first step in being a better leader is to take the time to listen to others, and reflect back what is being said to clarify matters. A leader who listens is respected by their team members. Listening to anyone would make that person feel that they are important, what they say or have to say is being heard and that their thoughts, situations or their role in the team are valuable.
Steps to be a better listener include:
- When listening to another person, imagine that they are the only other person in the room and be fully engaged in what they are saying.
- Be open minded and put yourself in their shoes. You might not agree with what the person is saying, but give them a chance to fully articulate their thoughts. People will appreciate that you are making an effort to understand and hear what they are saying.
- Repeat back the key points you are hearing and ask for clarification of anything you did not understand or may have missed.
- Establish what follow up there will be, if any, so the person is clear on what will happen after the conversation is finished.
- Remember, conversations are just the beginning step to implementing great ideas!
Listening is a skill that comes with time and practice. Leaders need to talk but they don’t need to talk to hear their own voice. A leader can always learn from others, from advice or suggestions from the team members and the act of listening itself can open up a treasure trove of informational and helpful exchanges. Remember, it only takes one person to suggest an idea for significant change to affect the organization.
As a leader, it’s up to you to become a better listener so you can improve your skills and earn the respect of your subordinates.
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