Leaders Listen!

How well do you listen to others?

It's hard to listen when you're constantly living life in the fast lane! Today's leaders face the incredible challenge of juggling work's most important demands while engaging their people. It's no surprise that when the pressure hits, the investment in people wanes. However, leaders of all backgrounds must understand the cruciality of this point - one of the greatest ways people feel valued is when people feel heard.

"We always have the opportunity when listening to others to either go into shallow space or go deep." - Robert Blythe

Every leader has the opportunity to listen to others in a greater capacity.

In this week's action article, I want to introduce a few simple principles that can be easily and quickly implemented into your context. These principles will help you to engage and value your people in a greater capacity. You will find that leaders who listen are the leaders that last!

Active Listening in the Workplace

1. Direct Your Attention.

Body language is key to communication. Too often, we allow our tasks and anxieties to keep us in a rushed state. To be fair, some workplaces demand a speedy mode of operation. However, leaders must still take the time to have quality dialogue with their people...especially when it's time to listen. Many fail to consider their body language when listening. Is your torso facing the person speaking to you or is it pointed in another direction? Remember that your torso will usually face the direction of your interest. By facing your torso toward the person speaking, you increase the focus and engagement with that individual.

2. Lean In.

This is also about our body language. It's not just enough to face the individual speaking, we must utilize other intentional physical expressions to show that we're engaged and listening. Slightly leaning our head forward or toward the individual speaking demonstrates that we're engaged. In addition, utilizing head nods also communicates that we're tracking with the train of thought. Another great physical expression is to have clasped palms in front of your torso and slightly extended toward the person speaking. This signifies warmth and togetherness. Be sure to try these simple gestures the next time you're listening to a teammate.

3. Kill the Noise in Your Head.

It can be almost impossible to truly listen to another person while you're thinking about your next project, to-do item, or even lunch. Have you ever tried speaking with a person who looked like they were stuck in their own head? In these moments, you're speaking to merely a shell of a person. The true individual is locked away in their head of swirling thoughts but not actually present with you. Leaders that learn to cancel or kill the noise in their head in order to be present with others are on the road to masterful communication. This is a difficult endeavor and requires both practice and discipline. However, the more you do it, the easier it will become, and the better you will listen.

4. Give Thoughtful Responses

There are some leaders who merely "Mmmm" and "Uh-huh" or "Oh"...completely out of default. It's a trained response but not a sincere one. These leaders come across as shallow and uninterested. While verbal feedback is essential for active listening, I want to challenge you to consider using different phrases or verbal expressions that will take your listening to the next level.

  • Affirm and Question

  • ​"What I heard you say was _________. Is that right?"

  • ​Affirm and Relate

  • "Wow...that seems ________."

  • ​Feeling-Based Question

  • "How does this make you feel?"

Using responses like these are indicators of deeper engagement and listening. They also serve as a catalysts for increased connection with your people.

Join the conversation

  • Which principle needs the most improvement?

  • When can you begin to try these new skills?

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