Active listening can make you a  better leader

Active listening can make you a better leader

As leaders we sometimes spend a lot of time developing certain leadership skills at the expense of others. One of the skills that we need to learn is active listening. A good and effective leader listens to his subordianates, employess, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. The ability to listen effectively is an essential component of leadership, but few leaders know just what it takes to become a better listener.  You can improve your ability to lead effectively by learning the skills for active listening. Most of the conflicts that take place between management and employees are due to lack of listening to what the other is saying.

Leaders who listen to their employees are more likely to be able to lead effectively a workforce that is mostly diverse and multigenerational. Active listening involves paying attention, withholding judgment, reflecting, clarifying, summarizing and sharing. Leaders who listen to their employees don’t view employees as tools and resources to be used only for the success of the organisation but view them as human beings who are valuable assets who bring unique capabilities and aptitudes to the workplace.  Listening shows that you care for the employees. When you care about your employees, they tend to work harder and aim to exceed your expectations.

Employees want to be led by those who genuinely care about who they are and what they represent to the team and the organization. Listening to employees involves engaging yourself in matters important to them. Employees can see that you are listening by the way you respond when they share their opinions or speak to you. As a listening leader you should ask questions and encourage them to elaborate on certain issues. In this way they will know that you are listening, you are paying attention and you are trying by all means to understand what matters most to them. The workplace environment is sometimes very stressful and has a lot of pressure. You need an empathetic leader if you have to motivate your employees.

Empathy is a powerful display of listening. Empathy goes hand in hand with emotional intelligence. To be a great leader you need to balance head and the heart. The heart talks to being empathetic. The modern day leader should embrace new ideas, ideals and concepts. One of these new concepts is being an active listener, one who is constantly learning and open to and adapting to change. An active listening leader listens more and does not judge others but instead finds ways of how they can learn from others. Active listening requires an open mind. Even when you have strong views on certain issues, don’t judge, hold your criticism and avoid arguing or selling your point right away. You should allow time and opportunity for the other person to think and speak and express himself.

When you are actively listening you should now and again seek clarification on certain points. Learn to ask questions about any issue that is ambiguous or not clear.  This encourages people to expand their ideas. Never assume that you have understood correctly or that the other person knows you’ve heard him. Try to clarify points by paraphrasing key points so that you and your counterpart are on the same page. You can also try to summarise the discussion by restating the key issues as the conversation proceeds so as to confirm and solidify your grasp of the other person’s point of view. Active listening requires that a leader actively listens beyond the obvious via both verbal and non-verbal communication. People convey a lot through body language and facial expressions. As a leader you can pick a lot while you are actively listening.

A leader should not only hear conversations but should be listening and be engaged in the conversation by taking note of what is being said and how people are saying it and by making continuous eye-contact and gestures. Once you appear disconnected, the other party will view you as disinterested and not listening. Active listening means that you don’t interrupt the flow of a conversation. Interruption usually is a sign of not listening and also shows that you just want to be heard. As a leader it’s important to embrace two-way communication where you don’t interrupt each other.

Interruption causes disengagement from the other party and is a sign of being disrespectful to others. Employees respect those leaders that listen, because this shows that they are concerned about what you are saying and that they care. By applying the above concepts required for active listening, you will not only be known as a good listener, you will become a better leader as well.

Robert Baden-Powell said, “If you make listening and observation your occupation you will gain much more than you can by talk.”

l Stewart Jakarasi is a business and financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy (ACCA P3), advanced performance management (P5) and entrepreneurship.  He provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, corporate governance, preparation of business plans and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations.

For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles please contact him on the following contacts: sjakarasi@gmail.com, call on +266 58881062 or WhatsApp +266 62110062.

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