Are you a big idea person? Great! Those you lead are likely inspired by your thoughts. Just be careful to remember your employees have good thoughts, and maybe even big ideas, too.
A charismatic and decisive personality may have catapulted you to the top of your industry, but you won’t succeed without the support of your staff. Employees want to feel valued, and a big part of that is believing they are being heard. How good are you at the crucial skill of listening?
If you’ve ever been accused of being a boss that doesn’t listen, it may be time for some lessons. Here are 3 Don’ts and 3 Do’s for becoming a better listener.
When a problem — or an opportunity — presents itself, you may be tempted to jump in and take decisive action. A wise leader will first seek and consider other viewpoints and opinions. Be careful not to let the loud voices drown out meeker personalities. You may miss sage advice or a creative perspective for approaching the situation. If you think you already have all the answers, you won’t hear anything else.
To really listen, you need to get rid of distractions. In today’s workplace, it’s commonplace to have phones or laptops constantly within reach. Pay attention to how often you glance at a screen while talking to someone else. Each time you do, you are briefly checking out of the conversation — and sending the signal that listening is not a priority. Put away the phone and other distractions and really tune into what is being said. If you have too much going on, schedule a better time to talk when you can focus.
Be aware of your “hot buttons” and don’t overreact to negative or differing opinions. When you become offended, your receptivity shuts down. Even if the other person is speaking in an angry tone, try to listen to their perspective and find common ground. Avoid the temptation to interrupt and interject your opinion. If you do, no one will be listening.
A large part of communication is nonverbal. A person may be saying one thing with his voice but another entirely with his body language. Pay careful attention to facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact and posture. If an employee is agreeing with you verbally but leaning back and crossing her arms against her chest, acknowledge the mixed message and ask her true opinion.
There’s nothing more deflating to a person than to have an idea he’s invested a lot of thought into quickly dismissed by a superior. Even if you are pressed for time, acknowledge all ideas presented in meetings. Take a few seconds to summarize what you’ve just heard, and ask clarifying questions. You don’t have to say you agree, but you should always express gratitude for the information. This conveys the message you are really listening.
Listening is a mindset. It needs to be consciously practiced. As a leader, you need to acknowledge listening as a critically important skill — one worthy of effort. Use your strong voice to lead, but also know when it’s time to listen. Your colleagues and employees will appreciate your recognition of their intellect and value to the organization.
Want more tips on how to develop your leadership skills? The professional business consultants at Brink Results help grow companies through management training, people development, organizational assessments and professional coaching. Learn more about how listening and other skills development can boost your team’s productivity!