6 Ways to Improve the Leadership Skill of Active Listening
This morning I was working on the outline for an introductory training for managers and supervisors with the title:
“How to Build Effective Communication with your Team Members”.
Effective Communication is an essential skill to have in the workplace, if you want to be an effective manager or supervisor, who can motivate and engage team members, and ultimately improves employee performance and business outcomes.
Effective Communication is actually a skill SET that consists of many different parts. Active Listening is ONE of its’ foundational competencies.
The concept of active listening was originally developed in the context of a therapeutic setting.
Carl Rogers explains in this video.
Nowadays Active Listening is categorized as an essential skill to develop, both in life and in business. It can, and should, be applied in managing, parenting, teaching, preaching, socializing, and more.
As I was working on the outline of this training and was reflecting on the concept of Active Listening, I remembered the Chinese character for “to listen”. I first learned about this character in my ICF accredited coach training with Erickson International.
To Listen in Chinese
Listening is a verb that describes an action. It’s not just about passively hearing words. The Chinese character that means “to listen” is made up of the characters that mean “you”, “eyes”, “ear”, “undivided attention”, “king” and “heart”.
In my perception this very much resembles what I’ve learned about the concept of Active Listening. When we listen actively, we’re engaging all 6 of these elements.
Active Listening is a skill you can learn and improve on. Here are 6 tips you can use to start strengthening your listening muscle, so you can be(come) a more effective leader.
6 Tips on how to Actively Listen and Become a More Effective Leader
YOU – Bring yourself to the conversation, but be aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and cognitive biases, and how they might color or even distort the things that the other person is saying. Put you own ideas and concerns on the side while you listen. Intent to be open-minded, neutral and non-judgmental.
EYES – Listen with your eyes. Always take non-verbal communication into account. Observe (changes in) body posture, hand gestures, facial expression, eye contact, restlessness or tension. Do the non-verbal cues match the spoken words?
EAR – Listen with your ears. Not just to what is being said, but also to what’s NOT being said. Listen beyond the words. Listen for the meaning behind the spoken words. What do you notice about HOW something is said? The tone of voice, the speed, the volume?
UNDIVIDED ATTENTION – Intent to be fully engaged throughout the conversation. Don’t let yourself be distracted. You can prepare for this by taking a moment to focus, turning off your cell phone and closing the door before starting a conversation. Experiment with different things and find a ritual that works for you.
KING – Listen as though the other person were the King: with respect and dignity. Be polite, don’t interrupt and allow silence to happen. Silence usually means the other person is exploring his/ her thoughts and feelings before putting them into words.
HEART – Listen with your heart. Show authentic interest in the speaker’s message and feelings. You can do this by making appropriate eye contact, matching and mirroring non-verbal cues, like body language and tone of voice. Actively reach out by asking clarifying open-ended questions.
Active Listening as an Essential Skill to be an Effective Leader
If you’re a leader and you master the skill of Active Listening, you will undoubtedly start seeing immediate results in your relationships with team members and costumers. They will know that what they have to say matters. They will feel valued and understood, which encourages a culture of openness and trust. It also channels motivational energy and action, which enhances performance and productivity.
> What else can you see happening once you start strengthening your listening muscle?
> If you were to choose 1 area to focus on in the next week when it comes to Active Listening…where would you like to start?
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