There are a ton of skills that you’ll need to master if you want to succeed in your leadership career. You’ll need to be organized, detail-oriented, strategic, and a great communicator, to name a few. But there’s one skill that stands out above all the others and has the largest return on your investment: listening.
Yes, you heard me right. Listening. I know it sounds like a “nice to have” soft skill but hear me out. Listening is critical in leadership because it’s the foundation for building strong relationships and trust with your team. And let’s face it, if your team doesn’t trust you, they’re not going to follow you. And if they’re not following you, then you’re not really leading, are you?
So, how do you become a better listener? Well, it’s not rocket science, but it does take some effort. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Put down the phone.
Seriously. When someone is talking to you, put down the phone. I don’t care if it’s your boss, your colleague, or your mom. If you’re looking at your phone while someone is talking to you, you’re not really listening. And trust me, they can tell.
Make eye contact.
This might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many people don’t do it. When someone is talking to you, look them in the eye. It shows that you’re engaged and interested in what they’re saying.
I know it can be tempting to jump in and finish someone’s sentence, especially if you think you know what they’re going to say. But resist the urge. Interrupting someone is not only rude, but it also shows that you’re not really listening.
If you’re not sure what someone means, or if you want more information, ask questions. Not only does it show that you’re listening, it also helps you understand the other person’s perspective better.
Repeat back what you heard.
This is a great way to make sure you’re really understanding what someone is saying. Repeat back what you heard in your own words and ask if you got it right. It shows that you’re listening and it also helps clear up any misunderstandings.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I am a good listener already.”
Ah, the self-proclaimed “good listeners. They nod their head, say “uh-huh” at all the right moments, and then promptly forget everything you just said. They think they’re great listeners, but in reality, they’re about as useful as a chocolate teapot. I want more than that for you!
So, if you want to be a great leader, start by being a great listener. It may not be the most glamorous skill, but it’s the one that will serve you the most and set you apart from the crowd, especially if you aspire to leadership.
But let’s be clear – because hey, Clarity is my world; listening skills are not only important for emerging leaders, they are critical in any leadership role. By actively listening, you can build strong relationships with your team and really get to know them as people and at a deeper level. You can gain their trust, and better understand their perspective all by listening twice as much as you talk. You have one mouth and two ears, after all, and that’s the ratio.
Improving your listening skills doesn’t require a lot of effort, just a few small changes in your behavior can make a huge difference. But it’s a choice and only one that you can make.
Here’s wishing you the Clarity you deserve and becoming the best listener in the room!