Article: Effective Listening for Leaders
By: Natalie R. Manor
When most people think of communicating, they visualize talking and getting a point across in a clear, effective manner. Speaking or writing to communicate a message is only part of effective communication. The complementary part of communication is listening. As professionals, we are usually striving to improve our communication skills by taking speech classes, honing our presentation skills, or participating in ways of producing increased influence. We feel the better we are at getting our point across or communicating ideas, the better we are at communicating. There is a flip-side to communication – listening. Few people consider they can significantly improve their communications skills and thereby increase their leadership skills, by learning to listen
How does listening impact your performance as an executive? Not only is good listening a core competency of leadership, but your listening abilities can actually be measured and evaluated. To determine how to improve your listening abilities, you need to evaluate yourself on how well you listen to others. Do you stop what you are doing when others speak? Do you reflect back what you hear to create clarity? Do you ask questions?
Good listeners learn to listen with attention rather than just hearing the words. Attentive listening not only takes in what is being said, but also what is not being said in terms of body language, information that is left out, or information that is vague. Listening is a whole-mind activity that
There are many challenges to effective listening – some are controllable and some we simply have to recognize and work around. For example, many of us think we can multi-task well, but the truth of the matter is we probably have just learned to do multiple things simultaneously, but we do them poorly. Listening – really effective, powerful listening – is a task that does not mix well in a multi-tasking setting. As mentioned above, good listening takes concentration and a conscious approach to applying good listening techniques.
Other challenges to being a good listener include jumping to conclusions before hearing the entire message. Pre-judging a situation or a person can impede good listening and understanding. Often, the complex differences between male and female can interfere with listening simply because men and women listen differently. And finally, interruptions cause breaks in good listening; the phone rings and we immediately have to switch gears to another entire conversation!
Highly effective leaders always have an eye on productivity and efficiency. You can see the connection between effective listening and productivity, customer service, and employee attitudes. The results of effective listening by executive leaders impact the overall enterprise in both strategic and tactical ways. You can improve efficiency, increase team productivity, and advance customer service initiatives simply by improving your listening as a leader.
Additional benefits of effective listening include earning respect and trust among employees and team members. Clarity of information is enhanced by effective listening and clarity in turn improves efficiency. A smoothly operating organization boosts the professional reputation of the leader. When employees know they are being heard and understood, a positive team atmosphere develops and problems are more easily resolved without conflict.
How do you improve your listening? First, you evaluate your current abilities. Once you find where your weaknesses lie, then you start working on becoming an active listener and improving the areas where you are weak. Every meeting, every conversation, and every telephone call is an opportunity to be an active, engaged listener. Sometimes, you can understand what is being said but you may not be able to ascertain the reasons or motivations behind the words.
You can tell when you are talking to someone if they are listening to you or not. How does it make you feel when you are doing your best to communicate something and the other person is not really paying attention or is not understanding what you are trying to get across? It probably makes you feel less than important. Good listening is a matter of respect and highly effective leaders know how to respect their
Natalie Manor, CEO, is a recognized leader in the field of executive development and specializes in working with emerging and senior executive clients from around the world to achieve peak performance and sustainable results. Natalie Manor and her organization NMA, Natalie Manor & Associates has successfully served a global client base since 1986 as recognized leaders in the field of executive development an expertise that consistently helps senior leaders maximize their potential and increase
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