Leaders are in a unique position to shape a company, its values and culture, and even the employees that operate within it. But with a full plate of responsibility, daily challenges, and problems to solve, it’s easy to disconnect from the very people that make up the organisation you’re so busy running.
Hearing what others are saying is easy and automatic – but listening to what they’re saying takes skill, mental focus and a real desire to know what’s going on with them. Being a good listener through active listening is considered one of the most important leadership skills. Here are some ways to help you hone it.
The difference between this and hearing is that it requires you to focus your undivided attention on the other person and pay close interest to their words, rather than think about what your reply will be. This will lead to understanding and create space for a more respectful relationship. Whether you agree with what they say or not, save your response for after you’ve fully heard them out.
Take an interest in issues that matter to your team members by taking the time to ask for their opinions, share their views and follow-up with them about those perspectives so that they’ll know you were paying attention.
Everybody’s struggling with something, but many try to leave their personal issues at the door when at work. If you notice something different about an employee – such as a drop in performance, lack of interest or motivation – ask them how they’re doing. You may be surprised to learn that they’re willing to open up in order to be understood.
Avoid jumping to foregone conclusions about somebody based on something they said, their approach or modus operandi, just because it is different to your own. Modern-day leaders need to be capable of embracing new ways and learning from others no matter their position.
Being able to listen to criticism and welcome new ideas and styles of working shows flexibility in your character as a leader, which is a great quality to possess. Encourage others to share their views and pay attention to what they have to say with an open mind.
There’s never a time when showing empathy is not a good thing, no matter the circumstance. Pressure and stress exist within and outside of the office for everyone, every day, and expressing empathy and sentiment towards others not only makes you an approachable leader, but also displays a genuine interest to listen.
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