Learning to listen effectively will improve your leadership communication skills. It will help you build better relationships at work and at home. It also will improve your ability to solve problems and reduce conflict.
Listening is the most important skill I ever learned. It is an amazing tool to help solve business problems. It will also help you build better relationships at work, home and in your community. Listening helped me to have a wonderful loving partnership with my late wife for 38 years and now with my new partner Linda. It also helped me to be the kind of father I wanted to be.
Here are 10 tips to become skillful at the listening part of leadership communication. They will help you be a better leader.
- Be aware of your biases. Your preconceived notions and attitudes often prevent you from hearing opposing facts/views. We hear things as we expect them to be. We often dismiss – or do not hear – statements that do not fit our belief system and values.
- Let the other person talk until they have finished. Be willing to take the time to listen. This is hard for some people at first. Just slow down, take a deep breath and wait for the other to say what they need to say completely.
- Look at the other person.
- Stop doing what you are doing. Eliminate distractions. In one of my listening workshops a young man said that when his mother phones him she asks if he is watching television. If he is, she asks him to turn it off so they can talk. Stop watching and using the computer, too. Effective listening requires your full attention on the speaker. It is impossible to multi-task and be fully involved in listening.
- Encourage with brief verbal responses, such as: yes, uh-huh, m-m-m, okay.
- Encourage with nonverbal responses: nodding head, leaning in.
- Acknowledge their feelings. Show empathy. Do not tell them they should not feel the way they do. Express their feeling by saying, “Sounds like you are frustrated.” If you say the wrong feeling, the other person will immediately tell you exactly what they are feeling. This listening response from you lets the other know you understand how they are feeling. When feelings are intense, using this tip helps calm the other down.
- Paraphrase. Briefly repeat what you heard in your own words so the other person knows you got it. This takes practice. You will often hear something different than was said. When that happens, the other person will say it again to help you understand.
- Mirror the other’s physical positions. Be subtle so that it is not obvious.
- Do not give advice or lecture. That’s not listening.
Want more information about listening?
You can listen to my interview with Michael Rogers, Vice President of Communication at the Small Business Association of Michigan. Listening to it will help you know how to improve your listening skills and better communicate with your employees and customers, as well as family and friends. Just click the button below.
Get more advice and tips on growing your business by regularly listening to the Small Business Association of Michigan free audio seminars on your computer or mobile device. Go to http://www.sbam.org/radio and download at your convenience!
Photo by Jeroen van Oostrom
Lately I have been doing research on leadership communication.
The turle represents the fact that so many good ideas about leadership have been around for a long time, but are slow to be widely adopted.
Following are some things that caught my eye — some surprisingly — about leadership, communication, relationships and empathy.
Communication skills essential for leaders, says Harvard Business School
Nothing new here, but I liked this quote from a 2001 article: “Communication is the real work of leadership,” according to Nitin Nohria, Dean, Harvard Business School. He said a key skill is being able to talk in a way to make complex ideas accessible to others who may not share the same knowledge or background. Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr., Professor of Business Ethics at the school agreed. “You need a talent for simplicity — for saying things in a few words.”
Another essential skill is effective listening. Badaracco said in the article that he believes part of knowing your audience is the ability to listen. “With the fluidity of information in business today, leaders need to be masterful listeners; they need to be able to receive as well as send.” Read more at “What Makes a Good Leader.”
Relationships are important to effective leadership
I discovered a recent study that makes a fascinating point about how and why so many savvy leaders act in ways that diminish their effectiveness. Discoveries in neuroscience are producing some surprising observations about leaders and empathy. One discovery points out that other people need to feel that the leader “cares” about them.
Here was the key idea for me. When talking with others, leaders must show they care by forgetting about their own issues, in order to understand the other person’s issues, thoughts and feelings. In neurological terms, thinking about their own issues limits the ability of leaders to focus on the other people. Their own problems get in the way. This defensive mode of thought tends to close a leader off from others. And others “get it” that you are not focused on them. Here’s the article
Lack of effective communication is a workplace issue
Both managers and employees agree on this, according to a recent hiring trends survey conducted by Express Employment. The survey showed that effective communication is the most lacked trait among their leadership team and the most important quality a good leader can possess.
A good way to improve leadership and help to grow your business is by becoming a better communicator. Look for leadership communication tips here – and sign up to get these blog posts delivered to your inbox as soon as they appear by clicking here:
Today’s college grads face communication challenges
Substantiation comes in a study conducted in September 2011 by Harris Interactive for American Express. Half of hiring managers say that recent grads use of social media has improved their ability to think out of the box, but has deteriorated their writing skills, ability to focus on a task, and verbal communication skills. Communication skills and a good attitude are the most desired qualities they look for when interviewing, say 62% of hiring pros, followed by:
- Qualifications/skill set (36%)
- Intelligence/knowledge (23%)
- Work history (11%)
- Educational background (10%)
Read more about the Millennial Career Study
Something old about brainstorming that was news to me
The “rules of brainstorming” include not discussing ideas while creating a written list of them. The idea has been to defer judgment while going for quantity. It turns out this is not the best way to get the best ideas.
The first empirical test of brainstorming technique was performed at Yale University in 1958. Students working alone came up with about twice as many solutions as brainstorming groups. And the solutions were judged more “feasible” and “effective.” Numerous follow-up studies have come to the same conclusion. Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, has summarized: “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.” Here’s more info about it.
Something else I learned this week
I cut my finger in the kitchen two weeks ago and discovered something fascinating following treatment. Doctors are sewing up cuts using a technique new to me. Looking at the incision I discovered there is no scar. The doc ran the needle under the incision to the other side, then back under the incision to the beginning and tied off each stitch. It made a ridge of skin where the incision was. Ten days later there was no cut showing at all – and no scar! Amazing. I got the stitches out yesterday. My finger looks great and the ridge of skin has flattened.
So much time is wasted in poorly led meetings. (Don’t get me started on that.) One way to boost your leadership communication is to improve your leadership at meetings. Here are five simple tips that will create result-oriented meetings:
Start the meeting with a purpose
Clarify the reason for the meeting. Is it to provide information, make decisions, discussion only and decisions later?
Use an agenda
This is a good way to keep yourself and everyone else focused. If you start a meeting without an agenda, create one. Working with the group, make a list of what needs to be covered and assign a time for each item. When you stick to an agenda you will lead people in meetings to stay on task. It helps you stay focused, too! And send the agenda out in advance so people can be prepared when they get to the meeting.
Use time effectively
That means start on time; end on time. It is amazing to me how many times I have attended meetings that start 10-15 minutes late. This is incredibly costly in wasted staff time for those who wait. Change your organization’s “time culture” by starting on time.
Direct attention back to the topic when it strays (and it will)
A good technique is to briefly summarize what has been said on the topic. This is also a good to do when people give too many details or repeat what they have already said. While observing meetings for my clients to improve meeting effectiveness I often have heard the same point made by the same person 3-4 times.
Control the flow
It’s normal for side conversations to start during meetings. My favorite response when this happens is to say: “We have two meetings going on here. Let’s have one meeting.” That gets everyone‘s attention back on the person currently speaking.
What problems do you have in meetings?
Comment below for feedback and suggestions to handle the problem. Share you thoughts.