Becoming a better listener can make you a more effective leader in whatever leadership role you’re in. Whether you’re listening to your kids recount their days at school or in a meeting receiving feedback from your employees, it’s important that you listen carefully and become more mindful of what is said between the lines.
As a leader, it’s not always easy to know what your team members are thinking. They may hold back sharing their concerns and problems because they don’t want the leader to view them as a complainer or assume they have a bad attitude. Sometimes they won’t share simply because the required level of trust is not there. But the leader who is able to listen clearly can develop relationships centered on this trust and let others know their best interests are vitally important.
One of the ways a true leader can listen is by learning body language, being able to discern moods, facial expressions and knowing behavioral issues. This is why the best leaders have high levels of EQ – emotional intelligence. A good listener can easily discern changes in a team member’s demeanor and whether or not they’re truly engaged in their work. They know intuitively how to turn it around and create a more positive and thriving atmosphere.
If you’re a good listener, you must also develop compassion and empathy for those who look up to you as a leader. Someone in your team may have issues at home or other personal problems that cause their performance or attitude at work to suffer. Regardless of how committed one is to their work, we must always remember that they are not only an employee. We all have many and varied roles in life beyond work, perhaps as a parent or sibling, a volunteer, an advocate and, of course, as a friend. It is not fair to expect that what happens outside of work will never impact on performance in the workplace. [Workplace coaching can be extremely valuable in these situations].
On top of this, team members may not want to reveal personal problems to you because they feel it might change your perception of them and hurt their work reviews or prohibit promotions or other rewards. This is where developing your listening skills and emotional intelligence will pay dividends. It will allow you to create a culture of psychological safety where those around you are not afraid to share what is happening for them. This means far less time wasted trying to work out and address underlying issues, even when they aren’t “work related”.
One way to become an effective listener is to show that you care about your team members (this also works within a family!). They’ll be much more likely to come to you with problems and alert you to possible ramifications that may happen to the team and your goals if a problem isn’t solved. Consider how you might demonstrate your concern for those you work alongside each day and what the potential pay offs might be.
Aligning yourself with your employees also helps you become a good leader. By engaging yourself in matters that concern employees and letting them know that you’ll be there during personal or professional hardships, you’ll be setting yourself up to know and understand what matters most.
You won’t see “good listener” as a requirement in a job description, but it’s clearly an essential trait for anyone wishing to become a next level leader. After all, one of the best ways to learn more is to listen more. Find out more about our Lead like a Learner Leadership Coaching Program.