Listening is one of the most vital frameworks of leadership. You can’t effectively lead others if you don’t value their opinions or listen to their perspectives.
When you listen to your team members, it can help you recognize the potential of your organization. However, listening can be a hard skill to master. You may find yourself often controlling the conversations or meetings without providing time to hear from others.
Here are three crucial ways leaders can — and should — listen:
Probably the most obvious tool for listening is asking questions. Asking questions requires you to seek answers from other people. It helps you to be intentional by making you consider previous conversations and information you’ve learned about an individual. The more specific and thoughtful the question, the better it is. Instead of asking the generic question of “How are you?” (which usually receives a one-word response), you could ask, “What can I do to support you in your role?” When you ask thoughtful questions, it shows your team members that you care about them and their input.
This goes along with asking questions. Showing interest in other people demonstrates that you value them, their story and their ideas — not just their role or what they can do for you. Just like any skill, showing interest is a habit that you may have to develop. It can be as simple as making eye contact, nodding along or even sitting forward in your chair. Your body language is key. According to Professor Deepika Phutela of Tantia University, body language accounts for 55% of a person’s impression on others. Show interest in others by not only paying attention to what they are saying but also in how you respond.
Silence is key. Recognize when you need to be silent. Try not to always control the conversation. For example, if you find yourself interrupting others more than they interrupt you, this could be a sign that you need to slow down and listen. A lot of problems exist because people aren’t willing to stop and listen to others. When you are silent, you can gain insight on how your team members are feeling. They may even be able to contribute fresh ideas to a project you are working on. Listening can also bring unity to your team. Always strive to create a space where everyone can share their input.
Listening is vital for effective leadership. When you actively listen, you show your team that you value them. This is just one important aspect of leadership that can show your team that you care and want to see them succeed. What areas do you need to improve on as a leader to make your team feel more valued?