What’s the Value of Listening Skills to a Leader?

As a business leader, listening shows that you appreciate your team and it forges trust between you and your employees.

We all feel the need to be recognised and one of the ways leaders can recognise team members is to praise them in public and be sure to give them the time they need.

It is one of the most important leadership skills you can develop.

The best leaders give their teams the necessary tools, resources, training, technology, people, and most importantly their time and attention.

Spending time coaching them, mentoring them and allowing them space to discuss opportunities and concerns helps them to grow. They need to know you’ve got their back, and have their best interests at heart.

By being a good listener, a leader is able to see the world through the eyes of others. This expands a leader’s point of view, motivates the team and improves employee performance.

An example of leadership skills

An example I heard recently is a boss who would come around his desk and sit beside his team whenever they were speaking to him. He felt that sitting side by side, rather than being behind a desk, made conversations better.

It created equality and eliminated any physical obstacles and barriers.

When asked why, he explained it put his direct reports at ease and showed them that he cared. In doing so, he helped motivate his team to perform better and they were never afraid to present new ideas.

As a leader, the only way to know what employees are thinking or what is hindering their performance is by listening to them. Listening involves more than being quiet and asking questions, it is about reading body language, expressions, mood and behaviour. With so much activity going on in a workplace, listening should be a leader’s priority.

Ask for opinions

A simple but effective technique is when leaders ask: “what do you think?” This question encourages employees to expound their ideas. It allows leaders to crowd-source the best ideas from their team and in some cases, employees will present a fresh perspective to a problem.

When employees notice that a leader appreciates their views, they will be more motivated to find solutions on their own. This enhances overall business performance.

How can you improve your listening skills as a leader?

  1. Put time aside time to focus

The best way is to schedule one to one meetings and/or performance reviews with your staff. Make it clear this is a safe space where they can raise concerns. 

Before a meeting, take a few moments of silence to clear your mind. This allows you to have a clear head, get focused and elevate above the day to day hectic pace.

It helps to have a simple agenda of points to address. Mindset-wise, try to avoid having preconceived notions and be open. Otherwise you risk taking over the meeting and not allowing your employee to speak.

If your employees have raised concerns, always tackle these sensitively in the moment, attempting to get as much information as you can without being forceful, rather than making excuses or brushing them off.

  1. Don’t multitask

Many leaders are so busy that when they should be engaging with employees, they are trying to multitask. This can make an individual feel as though they aren’t valued or being listened to.

Put yourself in their shoes: imagine you are talking to someone who is scanning a room or looking at their phone. How much attention are they giving you? Are they really hearing you?

Maintaining eye contact and focusing on the speaker is key. Even if the speaker is not directly looking at you, keep looking at them. This helps you concentrate on what they are saying, and avoid distractions.

  1. Be open-minded & curious when listening

It is difficult for a business to build an innovative and creative culture if its leaders aren’t open and prepared to listen to new ideas. If you keep asserting your own ideas and opinions, your team will be reluctant to contribute and share their thoughts.

Keep an open mind, picture what your employees are trying to say, note down any questions you have and ask for clarification when they have finished speaking, rather than interrupting them in mid-flow.

Listening is one of the most valuable leadership skills to practise and develop. Don’t be afraid to use silence as a tool to encourage people to speak. The benefits of becoming a good listener will be shared by your team, your clients, your suppliers and personally with your family.

If you need support to improve your leadership skills, give us a call on +44(0)7795 667480 to find out how we can help.

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