I Hear You – Listening For What Is Rightn by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

In the relationship between the leader and the team, the art of listening can take a backseat to the need to provide information and get work done on a timeline. However, authentic leadership and effective collaboration rely on listening fully and genuinely. When the focus is to listen and understand, leaders can unlock a powerful tool that fosters trust, respect, and innovation.

The Importance of Listening

Listening is more than a passive activity; it’s an intake and processing of the speaker’s words and emotions. Listening for understanding rather than preparing our response shows that we value the speaker’s perspective. This approach builds trust and strengthens relationships in a professional setting or personal interactions.

When leaders listen actively, they gain insights that can be missed in the rush to respond. This deeper understanding can lead to more informed decisions and a greater alignment with the team’s and organization’s needs and concerns. It transforms conversations from information exchanges to collaborative problem-solving sessions.

Shifting from Hearing to Understanding

Listening to understand requires a mindset shift. Instead of focusing on what you want to say next, concentrate on the speaker’s words, tone, and body language. This means resisting the urge to interrupt or prepare a rebuttal while the other person is speaking. By fully engaging in the moment, you can grasp the full context of the conversation.

Practicing active listening techniques daily is one simple way to enhance your listening skills. These techniques include making comfortable eye contact with the speaker, summarizing what the speaker has said to confirm your understanding, and asking open-ended questions to encourage further discussion.

Creating a Culture of Listening

In a team or organizational setting, fostering a culture of listening leads to significant benefits. When team members feel heard, they are more likely to share their ideas and concerns with leadership. This openness can lead to innovative solutions and a more closely-knit team dynamic. Leaders can encourage this change by modeling good listening behaviors, such as giving full attention to speakers, acknowledging their contributions, and responding rather than reacting.

As a secondary benefit, listening to understand rather than to respond can help reduce conflicts. Many disputes arise from misunderstandings or feelings of being ignored or undervalued. By listening carefully and empathetically, leaders can address underlying issues and find common ground more effectively.

The Impact on Personal Growth

Listening to understand contributes to personal growth. It requires humility and patience, qualities that are essential for effective leadership. By valuing others’ perspectives, you become more adaptable and open-minded. This openness can enhance your ability to learn from others and adapt to new situations.

Turning our processes from listening to react to listening to engage and respond is not always easy, and it will take time and practice. However, this is well worth the effort, resulting in increased workplace communication, creativity, and problem-solving.