As business owner or CEO, you have a lot of decisions to make and many things you need to communicate to your team. At the end of the day it may seem like all you’ve done is talk to (or at) people for hours on end. If so, chances are you’re not actively listening to what others want or need to tell you.
Listening well is a critical leadership skill. It enables you to forge new relationships and strengthen existing ones. It helps resolve problems and overcome conflict. It means less time lost to miscommunication and misunderstanding. It makes you a more efficient and effective leader.
In your upcoming conversations, keep these active listening tips in mind:
- Stay focused and maintain eye contact. If someone is talking to you and you’re busy checking your smartphone for the latest text message, how much is really getting through? Look up from your laptop and put electronic devices aside. Maintain eye contact and nod frequently.
- Don’t get distracted. Even when you think you’re listening, you can easily be distracted by thoughts in your head or by other things going on in the background. Your attention can be diverted by some mannerism the other person exhibits, the way they’re dressed, or how they phrase their message. Some of this happens unconsciously, but you can make the effort to screen these distractions out.
- Refrain from interrupting. For whatever reason, it’s no longer considered particularly rude to interrupt when someone is talking. But doing so sends the wrong message, suggesting that (a) what that person is saying doesn’t interest you, and/or (b) you don’t have time to hear them out. One variation on (b) is the “sentence-grabber”—someone who can’t wait for the speaker to stop talking before jumping in and finishing the sentence for them. Allow the speaker enough time to complete her thought.
- Don’t think ahead. Do you ever catch yourself planning your rejoinder while the other person is still talking? This is a sure sign you’re not truly listening to what’s being said.
- Ask clarifying questions. When there’s a natural break in the conversation, ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand what the speaker has said. The best questions are open-ended, not ones requiring a “yes” or “no” answer. In addition to helping you stay focused, this enables the speaker to expand on his message and possibly uncover new and helpful ideas that would otherwise have gone unsaid.
- Summarize! When the conversation concludes, summarize the key points as you see them. This reduces any misunderstandings and promotes effective follow-through. It also offers the other person a last chance to clarify or raise an additional point. Finally, a cogent summary of what’s been discussed shows that you’ve listened and absorbed what the other person has said.
Members of Catapult Groups apply their listening skills to group sessions and one-on-one strategic consulting that generate measurable results. Find out more about how membership in Catapult Groups can help your business grow and make you a more effective leader.