Whether you are a people- or process-oriented leader makes a difference in your style. Either way, you will be interacting with different people. Even if you are uncomfortable in this part of your role, you can practice certain techniques that will make you more effective. One of those things you can work on is the ability to be a good listener. Here is our list of pointers to put you in the category of “great listener.”
1. SHUT OFF YOUR PHONE.
Turn it upside down or put it in a drawer if you feel the urge to check it.
2. SHUT THE DOOR.
Give your speaker privacy and safety to speak openly.
3. ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT.
Nothing says full attention like good eye contact. Because this is something that we don’t do easily any more, the simple act of working to keep eye contact will engage you in the conversation.
4. LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND.
Formulating a response is not important right now. First, one must comprehend the needs of the speaker. You will have plenty of time later to figure out what to say or do.
5. ALLOW VENTING.
Sometimes people need to clear the air, speak their mind, and get it out of their system. Let them. When they are done, they will wind down, but you must let them get it off their chest. For some, simply being heard until there is nothing left to say is enough. Never underestimate this step
6. DO NOT TRIVIALIZE.
Whether or not you think the issue is valid is not important at this point. The speaker obviously does, and your job is to hear them out.
7. ASK QUESTIONS.
One of the most important steps for any relationship is to repeat back what YOU THINK YOU HEARD. What you hear may not be what they were trying to say. Speak it back and forth until you both are echoing the same words, and you know that you have interpreted it correctly. While this seems silly the first few times, you will be amazed at how far off some of your variations on the theme can be. Remember the old school game called “telephone” where you sat in a circle and listened to a statement going around from one to another? By the time it got back to the originator, it was seldom the same as what they originally said. This technique works great in the field between co-workers, too, and you can illustrate it for them.
8. FIND SOLUTIONS.
Once you have a true understanding of the issues, you can begin to seek resolution. Whether there is anything that can be done or not, you have made the initial contact a useful one. Set up a follow-up visit if necessary, and connect them with those who can facilitate an answer. Whatever you say you will do, it is important that you do it.
“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt
There is much truth in these words, and as you become a better listener, you will see the effect that it has on your leadership skills and your relationships with your team.
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