Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say
– Andy Stanley
It is typical for people to associate effective communication traits with a competent leader. We expect the person who heads a team to be skilled in conveying ideas through talking or writing. This is perfectly understandable because leaders frequently share information and ideas. Their words, whether spoken or written, can form a foundation that can move a team upward or build a sharp axe that can crush a team’s spirit. Indeed, everyone knows that being articulate with words is an invaluable trait for thriving leaders.
Still, aside from the ability to speak and write well, there is one more important characteristic in communication that all leaders should have. This is the ability to listen well. Being a good listener is a crucial trait because a team where the leader is the only one who keeps on talking is not likely to succeed. Team collaboration is best when everybody in the team feels free to share inputs because they know that their concerns do not fall on deaf ears. So how can a leader hone their listening skills? The following pointers may be helpful.
Even great speakers get bothered by audience members who do not seem to pay attention while they are giving their speech. Aside from being rude, it can also diminish a speaker’s confidence. For this reason, it is very important for leaders to learn how to listen with great attention to anyone they are talking to. To do this, they may have to eliminate possible distractions that can prevent them from focusing on the moment. They may need to turn off phone and email notifications to listen closely to what the other person is saying. A leader who does this will make someone feel respected and valued, and can even motivate them to work more efficiently.
Be genuinely interested.
You can listen with great focus but if you are not genuinely interested about what the other person is saying, the words can quickly fade into thin air. For words to stick in your mind you have to be interested in other people’s thoughts and ideas. This is something that is hard to fake. Feigning interest is not something you can do and hide from for long. On the contrary, good leaders take time to listen to others because they are excited to discover someone’s strength, potential and even weaknesses. For this reason, leaders who desires growth for the whole team aim for real connection and are are eager to get to know everyone on the team.
Pay attention to body language.
Not everyone can express their thoughts well and great leaders know this. To really understand or hear what the other person is trying to say, leaders sometimes need to read between the lines. They know how to notice subtle signs that show if a person is uncomfortable or scared. A bit of sensitivity can go a long way because it will help the leader show the appropriate response that a person needs in a particular situation. For example, a leader who noticed that a person is shy may respond with words that will encourage someone to open up. If a person seems uncomfortable, the leader may give the person more time to organize his or her thoughts.
Do not judge.
A great team is a team where everyone contributes to the best of their ability and does not feel any apprehension in sharing their feedback. To achieve this ideal status, you have to create an environment where everyone is encouraged to speak up. You can do this by controlling your reaction whenever someone decides to give a piece of his or her mind. You have to learn how to listen without letting your emotions get the better off you. You do not make hasty judgments or display uncontrolled anger. Instead you listen patiently until someone is done talking and assess your reactions objectively.
Efficient communication skills can take you places and can help you achieve your goals. But as you freely express your thoughts, remember to pay close attention to what the others are saying, too. Do not forget that flawless speech and writing may make you a leader, but if you want to be a remarkable one, you need to strive to be a great listener.