The Importance of Effective Listening and How to Apply It
Being a leader is tough. Listening as a leader is even tougher. But, if you’re reading this article, then the chances are that you’re interested in understanding your workers better – in which case, congratulations! Openness and receptivity is one of the first steps to effective listening, which this article will guide you through today.
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. – Stephen R. Covey, author of Principle-Centered Leadership
Why listening effectively is so hard for leaders
Employees are inclined to feel like they are obliged to listen to their leaders, unfortunately, not the other way round. Even when probed for input, it’s common for workers to withhold parts of their thoughts that they might perceive to be offensive to their superiors.
And the reality is, to a certain extent, this dynamic is unavoidable. Even in today’s workspaces where flatter hierarchies are often encouraged it’s only human nature to want to keep people at ease and some sort of chain-of-command is essential for organisations to work efficiently.
To make matters worse, leaders often have too much on their plate to provide their workforce with personalised attention. Between settling day-to-day tasks, reporting to the board of directors, and making sure that their employees are keeping up with their tasks, mid-tier managers are constantly caught in a juggling act.
This sentiment is especially prevalent amongst younger workers, parents, and essential workers, who may find their opinions being dismissed in favour of individuals who are perceived to have more experience, or greater bandwidth to contribute to company projects.
How listening benefits company morale, productivity, and the bottom line
Instead of blindly accepting instructions, listening encourages two-way flow of communication along the chain-of-command, priming employees to contribute their ideas and be receptive to that of others.
The rewards of effective listening are not to be underestimated. When done right, active listening creates a safe environment for sharing and makes leaders feel more accessible. Executing this consistently over time creates a positive feedback loop where employees are more willing to step forward – simply because their ideas were listened to.
Beyond brightening the day-to-day work atmosphere, companies can also stand to reap tangible benefits from a culture of openness.
- 7 in 10 employees report feeling more effective at work when their opinions are heard.
- 88% of organisations perform well financially when their employees feel a sense of belonging from having their opinions valued.
Effective listening broken down into 3 simple components
Listening is a demonstrable skill that goes beyond just passive reception. Effective listeners know how to communicate trust, respect, and empathy as they allow the speaker to comfortably share their ideas. Here are a couple of things habitually practised by leaders who know how to listen.
- Positive body language
Most people don’t appreciate when the person they are talking to gets distracted. People can tell when you’re not interested, even through a screen. You’ll want to show the speaker that you’re giving them your full attention by leaning forward, maintaining eye contact, and every so often injecting nods and verbal cues.
- Don’t seek specific answers – use open ended questions
The type of questions you ask matters. People can tell when you’re trying to guide them towards answers that you want, and will instinctively back away. Avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or no. That’s a surefire way to bring the conversation to a premature end. Instead, invite your speaker to elaborate by inquiring about their thought process. This will make it easier to find common ground as well, even if you don’t agree with their final answer.
- Be inclusive – encourage the quieter ones to answer
Have you ever been in a class where only a handful of students respond whenever the professor asks a question? Open-ended questions are a good start, but you’ll want to hear from different perspectives as well. Instead of waiting for someone to raise their hand, it might be helpful to switch things up once in a while and invite individuals who don’t usually contribute to share their thoughts. The results might just surprise you.
Master listening and other leadership skills with 1:1 sessions at your convenience
Understand the fundamentals of applied active listening through our Whitepaper: The Art of Active Listening & Enabling Employee Engagement Through Communities. With insights from certified psychologists and CoachHub’s top coaches, The Art of Active Listening offers tips on how to incorporate this essential leadership skill into day-to-day situations at work.
Through 1:1 coaching sessions, CoachHub’s executive coaching programme can finetune your listening approach and provide a customised framework for you to engage your employees and gain better results. Join the 91% of business leaders who have achieved their goals and targets through CoachHub’s training sessions. Using direct messaging and video coaching, your employees can slot in a session into their schedule, any time of day,and get feedback on-the-go from one of our 3,500 coaches across the globe – all who have been certified by top crediting coaching associations.