Leaders inspire their teams by showing they care. One of the most important ways leadercommunicators show they care is to listen – truly listen – to what people have to say.
Managers who make the effort to listen to employees can be rewarded with positive relationships, commitment and engagement that spur an organization’s success. Inviting employee input is one thing, but the proof that you take it seriously comes from taking action.
To create a culture where people feel their input is valued, you must work to facilitate dialogue. As with any culture, senior leaders need to set the tone, model active listening behaviors and establish expectations and accountability for the entire organization.
Here are some easy steps to demonstrate active listening:
Approach each dialogue with the goal to learn something and think of the person as someone who can teach you
Stop talking and focus closely on the speaker. Suppress the urge to multitask or think about what you are going to say next
Open and guide the conversation with broad, open-ended questions such as "how do you envision..." or "what other strategic alternatives did you consider?"
Drill down to the details by asking directive, specific questions that focus the conversation, such as "Tell me more about...," "How would this work?" or "How did you come to this conclusion?"
Summarize what you’re hearing and ask questions to confirm your understanding, such as "If I’m understanding you..." or "Tell me if this is what you’re saying...."
Encourage with positive feedback. If a speaker lacks confidence or has some trouble expressing a point, encourage them with a nod, a smile or a positive question to show your interest.
Listen for total meaning. Recognize that, in addition to what is being said, the real message may be non-verbal or emotional; seek true understanding and be sure to respond with empathy.
Pay attention to your responses. Be aware of your body language and recognize that the way you respond to a question also is part of the dialogue. Keep an open mind and show respect for the other person’s point of view even if you disagree with it.
As a leader, how does your culture encourage dialogue? How could you model and encourage listening?