The Most Important Leadership Skill: Listening
Great leadership is only partly about knowing how to speak. How a leader listens is every bit as important, yet it’s a skill far too many people lack. The following are a just a few ways you can cultivate a knack for effective listening starting now. When people feel heard, incredible things start to happen/ Try it yourself, and prepare to be amazed!
Nix the Assumptions
It can be tempting to go into a given conversation assuming you already know what the other person wants and is going to say, but it’s important to resist that tendency. Even if you know someone very well and have lots of experience conversing with them, keep in mind that you’re not a mind reader. Instead of simply assuming, try actively focusing on what the other person is truly saying. (If you’re not sure, ask for clarification.) Make sure you give them ample time and space to fully express themselves as well.
Let Go of the Need to Be Right
Everyone knows someone who constantly seems to be on the defensive, regardless of the actual situation at hand. Such people go into nearly every conversation with employees, team members, and superiors prepared to defend themselves, even if there’s no reason to think they’re about to be attacked. It’s nearly impossible to have a productive conversation with someone who thinks this way, so ask yourself if it’s a behavior you’re prone to. If it is, practice effective listening via a mindful attempt to really understand what the other person is really saying the next time you sit down to talk.
Don’t Be Judgmental
Good leaders understand that giving constructive criticism simply comes with the territory when you’re in charge. However, they also refrain from giving it when it’s not necessary or appropriate. Even when dealing with notoriously difficult people, resist the urge to automatically criticize or reproach every single thing they do or say. People get used to such reactions and will eventually stop sharing their perspective altogether. That’s definitely not something an effective leader wants.
When approached properly, effective listening generates the type of engagement you’re looking for as a leader. Be present in the moment. Be patient. Be accommodating. All of those things assure people that they matter and that what they have to say is important. Don’t worry if it listening like a champ doesn’t come naturally to you at first. Practice makes perfect in regards to any skill worth acquiring, and listening is definitely no exception!