By | Narendra Ambwani | Helping CEO/CXO Excel
It’s now recognized by all the management gurus that Listening is the most important leadership skill. This skill is more important than speaking. Unfortunately, in all our professional education and training the focus is on skills of speaking, debating. Therefore, many leaders are not conscious of their handicap in listening skill. Active listening is a skill that can be acquired with practice and focus. Here are few tips to become better a listener.
1. Active listening is different than hearing as it involves use of all the senses with intent of understanding the speaker’s views at deeper level, going beyond words alone. It involves observing the eyes and gestures of the speaker and identifying emotions in his voice. Therefore as a leader you have to be focused and disciplined.
2. Keep an open mind. Avoid any judgment. Do not evaluate. Do not analyse or like/dislike. Let the mind be focused on just listening with attention. For most leaders this is the toughest part, as they have experience and competencies often, better than the speaker. However the moment the mind starts evaluating or judging, then listening tends to stop. Mind can focus on things only one at a time. It either listens or it evaluates. Multitasking is a waste as you will do neither task with focus.
3. Active listening shows respect to the speaker by keeping eye contact and encouraging with smiles, nods, Uh-huh or yes feedback to speakers. It shows that you are attentive and keen to learn their view. You encourage speaker by asking for more from him. “That is a good point, can you go deeper on it”, “This seems important, tell me the full story” etc. It shows your interest and alertness. The speaker will feel relaxed and motivated to share more.
4. Active listening requires an open posture, sitting straight facing the speaker, head may be little tilted and eye looking into eyes of speaker with a relaxed face.
5. For active listening all distractions must be avoided, mobile and laptop to be kept away from the desk to avoid temptations. Avoid fidgeting or doodling or looking at your nails etc.
6. Be in the present moment to listen actively. Mind does tend to think ahead and plan response to what is being presented or dealing on an issue from the recent past. This skill of being in the present requires lots of practice to bring the mind to the present and not allowing it to wander. You have a powerful intellect which can control this wandering mind. Whatever is distracting your mind, control it to bring it to the present and now.
7. Listen with intent to understand a different point of view. When you speak, you are sharing what you know already, so no new value addition. When you listen you are exposing your mind to new views, you may later evaluate but right now just listen to get a different perspective.
8. Recognise your emotions which are caused as a reaction to what the speaker is saying. Just take a note of these emotions and seek clarity by asking if you have understood what the speaker was saying. Hold back any judgment or comment for now. Let the speaker complete his speech, maybe he will support his views in few moments later in the speech.
9. Make notes of key points on which you will later express your views at the end of the talk. Making notes is also a sign of respect to the speaker as it means that he has made few useful points.
10. Avoid interruptions as the speaker may lose his link of thoughts and the flow. Let him complete his speech the way he wishes. Point 8 above is an exception. Plan your schedule to keep adequate time for listening to the speaker. If this is not well planned your mind may drift to next item in your calendar.
Active listening can solve 90 percent of interpersonal problems. It can improve team work. It build trust and mutual respect. It is motivating and creates enthusiasm. It aligns people to a common goal. It helps the leader reach the right decision and not miss out on any opportunity by listening to all options. Ideally a great leader will have higher ratio of listening vs. speaking in all interactions. What is your ratio as a leader? Speaking vs. Listening? Is it over 50 %? More speaking and less listening?
Would like to consider a change to become a more effective leader?