Employees want their voices to be heard. As a leader, you are probably inundated with meeting requests from your subordinates to listen to their comments, complaints, and ideas. While anyone can listen, you must listen mindfully and effectively to be seen as someone who truly cares. There is more to it than just nodding your head and saying, “I understand.” By listening effectively you will get more information from what the person is saying, will increase others’ trust in you, and will reduce conflict. Here are 5 ways you can listen more effectively to be a better leader:
1. Look the Speaker in the Eyes
One important trait of effective listening is looking your speaker in the eyes. When you look the speaker in the eyes you are connecting with them and showing them you are attentive. By staying focused on the speaker you are demonstrating that you care and are really, truly listening to what they are saying. It is important to minimize distractions, so you can truly focus on the speaker. Putting your cell phone on silent, shutting your office door to minimize distractions, and concentrating on what they are saying are all traits of effective listening.
2. Avoid Interrupting
It’s hard not to interrupt, especially when you want to interject to a point the speaker has made. Hold your tongue. Let the speaker finish what they are saying before you jump in and respond. Don’t let the speaker lose sight of what they are saying. Once they are finished you can then respond to what they have said. As a leader, it is important you don’t interrupt. Interruption can be seen as a power play or an intimidation tactic.
3. Mirror the Speaker
Mirroring is often used in interviews, but it is a great tool to use for effective listening. Mirror the way the speaker is sitting. If they are leaned in with their legs crossed, sit the same. If they are smiling and excited try and evoke the same energy. By mirroring the speaker you are showing that you are tuned into what they are saying. It’s also important to respond appropriately. If someone is speaking about something serious don’t respond in a laughing and joking manner.
4. Ask Questions
Asking questions that are relevant to the conversation lets the speaker know that you heard what they were saying. If you aren’t sure you understood something correctly you can begin your question by saying, “To be clear, did you mean…..” This helps facilitate the communication between you and the speaker. Asking questions can help you understand the situation more clearly and will also show the speaker that you were truly hearing what they were saying.
5. Don’t Just Listen — Act
You know the old adage “actions, speak louder than words”? It is still true. To truly be an effective listener and in turn a better leader, you need to act on what is being said to you. Perhaps you can’t act right at that moment, but you can let the speaker know you need some time to reflect on what they said and to formulate an action plan. When you act on complaints, comments, and suggestions you raise your credibility with your employees.
There are many traits of great leaders and effective listening is one of them. Even though you might think you listen effectively, chances are you aren’t listening as well as you can. The next time someone comes to speak to you employ these tips and see if that makes a difference in the conversation you are having with them. When you listen more effectively you raise your credibility as a leader.