Listening For Leaders … at all levels

Listening for LeadersLeaders who fail to listen will pay a heavy penalty. Several authorities have said that seven out of every ten minutes that we’re conscious, we’re communicating. Additionally, our communicating is approximated as 45% listening, 30 % speaking 16% reading and 9% writing.

There are many reasons why leaders should spend significant listening. One important reason is that you must listen sufficiently so you know what you should say when you begin speaking. This could lead to a motivated employee who feels their ideas make a difference, a satisfied client that will do more business with you, or satisfied parties following a tough negotiation. Good listeners also engender the trust and respect of people they work with and generate enthusiasm among team members. Some might say that generating enthusiasm is more important than being enthusiastic.

Barriers to Good Listening
One problem is selective listening. Selective listeners only hear the statements and comments of most interest to them. The insulated listeners hear only good news and ignore bad news or anything that is inconsistent with their world view. Defensive, on the other hand, regard any negative remarks or comments as personal attacks. The interrupting listeners jump into the conversation by constantly interrupt and the insensitive listener’s serves up comments and reactions, but is short on listening for feelings or showing empathy.

Good Listening Behaviors
Good listening leaders work and try to look like a listener. In other words, they try to remove distractions from the physical environment dedicate time to help the speaker settle a bit before beginning an important conversation. Good listeners are encouraged to take notes so they can “mirror” back to the speaker their understanding of an issue to make sure they are on the same page and on track.

Many of the good listening behaviors are ordinary practices. For example, if an important discussion is taking place, select an area that affords as much privacy as possible and remind yourself to control your biases. Actually, all of us have biases, but we must control them to ensure that we get the correct picture from the speaker.

Maintain Focus
It is difficult to maintain focus at times because everyone has issues. However, we can’t allow the communication to drift because misunderstandings may occur. Don’t be afraid to ask for explanations and clarification. Repeat your understanding of a particular point or issue and ask the speaker if you got it right. This is the time to ask a lot of clarifying questions.

Key Bullet Points to Better Listening
1. Pay attention to content and to feelings.
2. Listen for content and feelings
3. Approach individuals from the most appropriate level
4. Use open-ended questions: How? Why? When? Who? Etc.
5. Focus on “fact-finding” and “feeling-finding”
6. When you ask a question, remain silent until the speaker answers fully.
7. Never have one correct answer in mind
8. Respect silence and wait for a response
9. If you don’t do it naturally, schedule time to listen
10. Never kill the messenger; don’t even try to silence them

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Communication Skills, Leadership

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