by Jeff Wolf
Most people don’t truly understand that listening ... really listening … is an art. Effective leaders learn how to put aside roving thoughts and distractions when conversing with people and open their ears. The real thing is called active listening, and it’s distinctively different from most everyday conversations.
Here are some tips for active listening:
• Be in the moment. Give the person your full attention. Try not to think about how you will respond. Suspend judgment about the person’s statements. If you miss what was said it will probably be because you have your mind occupied with other thoughts.
• Lubricate the conversation, using nonverbal behavior to show you‘re listening. Use phrases like “uh-huh,” “yes” and “so” to show you’re listening. As for body language, be sure to nod your head and lean forward. Maintain good eye contact.
• Periodically paraphrase. Restate what you’ve heard to test your understanding. This technique is a perfect way to establish that you are truly listening to the other person and that you understand what she is saying.
• Avoid interruptions. Allowing disruptions, such as checking your smartphone or replying to a question from somebody who sticks his head in your office door, will appear rude to the person whose words you need to clearly understand.
• Periodically clarify the other person’s meaning by using open-ended, probing questions.
• Slow down. Leaders are sometimes moving at such a fast pace that they don’t slow down to listen to their people.
Here’s a good way to practice active listening. Write down three things you learned from your employees last week. It could be a process, an idea for improvement, a customer challenge, a team issue ... or anything else. Then go back to the people with whom you discussed those issues, tell them what you heard, and ask if they remember the conversation as you did.
You may be surprised to discover that your versions do not always match. This is a great opportunity to sharpen your—which is what we want anyway.
Jeff Wolf is the author of Seven Disciplines of a Leader and founder and president of Wolf Consultants, LLC, a premier global consulting firm that specializes in helping people, teams and organizations achieve maximum effectiveness. http://www.sevendisciplinesofaleader.com/