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. (There’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth.)
When managers make an effort to listen to employees, they see the benefits in terms of engagement and positive relationships, which moves an organization toward success.
It's not only about inviting employee input. It’s also about proving you value that input by taking action on it.
To create a culture where people feel their input is valued, you need to facilitate dialogue. Senior leaders must set the tone, establish expectations for the entire organization, and model active listening.
Here are 8 steps to becoming an active listener:
1. Approach each dialogue with the goal to learn something.
Think of the person as someone who can teach you.
2. Stop talking and focus closely on the speaker.
Suppress the urge to think about what you’re going to say next or to multitask.
3. Open and guide the conversation.
Open and guide the conversation with broad, open-ended questions such as “what other strategic alternatives did you consider” or "how do you envision..." Avoid close-ended questions that can be answered with just a “yes” or “no.”
4. Drill down to the details.
Drill down to the details by asking directive, specific questions that focus the conversation, such as "Tell me more about..." "How did you come to this conclusion?" or "How would this work?"
5. Summarize what you hear and ask questions to check your understanding.
Questions such as"If I’m understanding you..." or "Tell me if this is what you’re saying...."
6. Encourage with positive feedback.
If you can see that a speaker has some trouble expressing a point or lacks confidence, encourage him or her with a smile, a nod or a positive question to show your interest.
7. Listen for total meaning.
Understand that in addition to what is being said, the real message may be non-verbal or emotional. Checking body language is one way to seek true understanding.
8. Pay attention to your responses.
Remember 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.
How will these steps to active listening help encourage dialogue in your culture?
How well do you truly listen? This free one-page quiz asks 10 questions (to be answered honestly by someone other than yourself) that address indications of whether or not you listen well. Take it today…the results may just surprise you.