We frequently hear how leaders need to be good listeners. But it takes more than that to be an effective leader. Try these 3 listening skills to improve your leadership listening.
Listen without response
Sometimes people just want to be heard. A solution is secondary.
I’m standing in line at the ticket counter of an airline and I can tell the person in front of me at the counter is upset and very animated about his complaint. Seems he wanted an aisle seat and all that were left were center seats. With each word he spoke, he got louder and more animated. The agent wasn’t looking at him. Instead she was working on her keyboard. She then slapped a boarding pass on the counter and told him gruffly, “You now have your aisle seat.” He looked at the ticket and then looked at her. He hollered, “But I’m not finished yet!” and he kept on complaining.
When an upset customer, employee or even spouse wants to be heard, don’t rush to solution. Allow them to get it all out. Frequently, it’s their top priority.
Allow the silence to hang in the room
When the person talking has finally stopped sharing their information about the situation they felt the need to talk about, don’t jump right in with a response. Allow the moment to hang for a moment. Because we seem to hate silence in the conversation, the other person will frequently fill the void with “the rest of the story.” It’s the rest of the story that is usually the true cause of the initial conversation.
Be careful not to trivialize or marginalize
Responses like “Oh that’s easy” or “It’s just common sense. Do this.” may shut down the speaker. As Stephen Covey taught us, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Once we truly understand where they are coming from, we can then help that person find a solution.
When working with a training opportunity, don’t just solve the problem for them. Coach. Help them to figure out the solution without simply giving it to them. Sometimes being a leader is having a set of open ears and a willingness to listen, not just having a ready solution.
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