Learning to listen can make good leaders into great leaders. Learning to listen enables not-so-successful leaders to turn negative results into positive ones.
Speaker colleague and extraordinary leadership development consultant Barry Banther is the author of A Leader’s Gift, How to Earn the Right to Be Followed.
As a leader Barry believes in bringing out the best in others. Over time he worked hard to develop the skills that made him successful in leadership roles. Today his distinguished consulting practice is built on sharing what he has learned, which he admits has not come without painful mistakes along the way. He credits his success to learning to listen.
There are many lessons in A Leader’s Gift. Among the most important are why and how to listen, what to listen for, and how to apply what is learned.
Establishing lasting relationships requires honest communication. Having solid rapport greatly impacts how people respond to those in leadership positions.
Furthermore being committed to listening shows genuine interest and demonstrates that you are ready to put others first. It is the secret sauce in the recipe for making critical communication work. How does this play out?
Giving people a sense of being listened to elevates their self-worth. They feel appreciated and that their opinions matter. They become motivated to perform at levels they may have never previously reached. Listening creates an opportunity for you to recognize when a word of appreciation will reinforce desired behavior or when encouragement will lift up someone who is struggling.
According to Barry, followers are attracted by openness, investment of time, willingness to listen, encouragement, and appreciation. He has identified these five skills for becoming an effective listener.
1. Focus by putting aside any other activities. Don’t allow any distractions to giving undivided attention.
2. Avoid judgment. Don’t predetermine or assume what someone is attempting to communicate.
3. Go deep with questions. Questions provide more information and greater awareness.
Barry has crafted four questions to produce specific information that enable leaders to expand their understanding of an individual’s thinking.
4. Search for misunderstanding. Recognize that misunderstanding is a natural occurrence; listen for it and proactively work to clarify and correct it.
5. Show appreciation for honest dialogue. Responding positively rewards the behavior you want to encourage.
It’s also important to remember to not treat a conversation like it’s a competition. Don’t be ready to pounce at the first opening to interject your comments.
What can you learn by being a devoted listener? A lot. Listen for how others feel, what their interests are, how they want to be involved, what’s important to them, and what they need to succeed. You will discover their concerns, ideas, and thoughts, and even why someone isn’t performing as expected.
This information allows you to respond appropriately with corrective action, necessary coaching, or development of a performance improvement plan.
Can you see how people will be much more inclined to become engaged when they believe that what they’re doing is important and that they are supported?
Listening is a powerful leadership tool: when people know you put them first, positive results will follow. If you aspire to be a great leader, give yourself a leadership gift by applying these lessons from Barry Banther.
Are you an active listener? Sharing what listening behaviors work for you would be welcomed!
Want to read more on how to be an effective communicator? Click on this link for my article on Improving Communication to Improve Board Performance.