To be an effective team leader, it's important to avoid talking too much and listening too little. Here are some strategies that can help you master active listening:
Don't be afraid of silence. Small talk can sidetrack your discussions with employees. When you ask a difficult question, don't be afraid to be quiet. Let employees take time to come up with the answer you really want and need.
Make your questions open-ended. Or, if that seems awkward or forced, ask relevant follow-up questions. Sometimes, all it takes is asking, "Can you tell me more about that?" to turn a one-word answer into an in-depth analysis. Guide your employees to help them tell you everything you need to know.
Be encouraging. This is an obvious principle, but it's not always easy to practice. Showing interest in what the other person is saying involves body language as well as verbal cues. Minimize outside distractions to give people your full attention.
Restate what you've heard. This is a technique that helps you remember what you've been told and also offers an opportunity for employees to correct your understanding. In addition to restating answers along the way, at the end of your discussion, summarize what you've heard in a way that spells out your mutual understanding of the issue.