Do you think a really good speaker can become a great leader? Is it the only attribute required? Of course not! If that was the case, any person with good speaking skills would have been able to become one. Great leaders know that listening is as important as speaking, if not more.
Leaders are known to motivate and inspire others. They understand the capabilities of each employee. They speak the right words to the right people and get things done in the most efficient manner.
But how do they get this information? Do they just assume it or listen to their intuition? If only it was that simple to be so effective at leading others.
Great leaders give a lot of importance to carefully listening to what everyone has to say. It enables them to understand the situation, gain information and learn all they can. Only then are they able to take good decisions and drive their employees to increase productivity.
Leaders put more emphasis on listening than speaking because they want their employees to voice out their opinion. This is a great way to increase employee engagement. It shows that their suggestions are valued and appreciated. They also ensure that action is taken to implement these suggestions whenever necessary.
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply
– Stephen Covey
The hallmark of a great leader is that he is easily approachable and is willing to listen to what employees have to say. Some managers have this habit of only partially listening as they concentrate only on what they are going to speak. They already have preset notions in their mind and are waiting just for the employee to finish speaking so that they can pass their judgement. Such managers can never become good leaders as employees develop negative attitude towards them. It is essential to understand what employees want if you expect them to willingly give their best every time.
Some leaders are born with great listening skills. However that does not mean you can’t develop these at any later stage of life.
If you intend on becoming a good leader, practice the following techniques to improve your listening skills:
Listen to understand, not to speak:
When you listen to understand what the speaker is trying to say, do not interrupt him. Focus on what he is saying without giving your judgement. Once you have a thorough understanding of his issues, you are better equipped to resolve them.
Paraphrase whenever necessary:
Repeat key points just as a recap. Ask questions if you have not understood something. Let the speaker know that you are involved actively in the conversation.
Demonstrate the right body language:
Your body language is equally important when it comes to showing that you are listening attentively. If you slouch and fiddle, it will appear to the other person that you are not interested in what he has to say. Keep your posture open and inviting. Nod occasionally to let them know when you agree with them.
Understand the sentiment behind the conversation:
You do not want to appear indifferent to the speaker’s emotions. Understand what his emotions are as he speaks to you. Respond appropriately and let him know that you empathise with his situation. Just your facial expressions, particularly eye contact can be sufficient to communicate at times like these.
Avoid thinking while listening:
Listen without thinking. We think about 1000 words per minute whereas approximately 150 words can be spoken in the same time. When your mind is thinking, you can’t really digest what you are listening to. If by any chance, the speaker asks you to repeat any part of the conversation, it will be really difficult for you to respond.
If you really want people to listen to you, it is essential you listen to them first.