Effective Leaders Listen First by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”

~Ernest Hemingway

One of the challenges that many leaders face is the ability to take the time to listen to employees within their organization. In a face-paced business world, leaders often feel pressured to make decisions quickly and to address problems immediately. However, by not taking the time and making time to build in listening, leaders are often making decisions based on assumptions and only partial information.

What People Think

An effective leader knows what people in the organization are thinking. This means what is worrying or concerning employees, other managers, and even senior leadership in the organization. Getting to the root of what may be limiting their ability to do their job in the best way can provide valuable insight as to where improvements need to be made in the company.

Listening to what people are thinking first means getting people to talk. Find a comfortable place and remove all distractions, and make it clear to the employee your goal is to learn more and to work together. Whenever possible, starting this process of getting feedback and learning what others think before there is a performance concern is a more natural and comfortable conversation.

Then, begin with open-ended questions to find out what areas of concern the employee wants to address. Perhaps they want to talk about an area of success, and this is always a great starting point.

Listen deeply and actively to what the person has to stay. Take it in, do not make judgments, and do not plan or strategize what to do with the information. Instead, ask more questions to get to underlying issues, but be aware if the employee is feeling uncomfortable or if they are shutting down.

Ask for Input

Asking people for their input is a powerful tool to get information. Build this in as part of your planning strategy, and encourage the sharing of ideas, options, and suggestions.

Asking for input is a sign of engagement by the leader, and this is definitely noticed by the team. Accepting suggestions and recognizing the contributions of the speaking is all a part of being an effective listener.

In listening to the people we work with, leaders become more empathetic and expansive in their ability to relate to their employees. In turn, this builds trust and empathy within the team, department, or organization. It also helps in creating a more open, accepting, and creative workplace where people feel valued by being heard.

The key with all types of deep listening is building both understanding and the human connection.  By practicing listening on a personal and professional level, leaders will find a wealth of insight and information that is essential for better decision-making and a better workplace.