Leaders Listening

Listening is the most important skill a leader can master. It is the basis of many other leadership skills. However, it is a tough skill to master as it requires us to be more present, attentive, engaged, patient and flexible. Good listening skills in this digital era, is fast becoming an endangered species. There is a difference between hearing what someone is saying and actually listening to them. Listening means you are taking their perspective into account and truly considering what they have to say.

Many of us are guilty of starting a conversation and putting a thought or question out there, but we don’t give ourselves a chance to listen to what others have to say because we never stop talking, or we are so busy formulating our reply to what we assume they will say. Don’t just listen with the outer ear but with the inner ear. Listen with the intent to hear and understand.

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. – Peter Drucker

The four foundational skills of language learning are listening, speaking, reading and writing, in that order. We get extensive training on the last three in school, but listening which is the most important is often overlooked. When communicating, it’s important to listen, digest, pause, reiterate, formulate and then respond. 

On average, we retain just 25 percent of what we hear, which is because of our busyness and lack of listening skills. What is your speaking to listening ratio? Listening is crucial to gaining a complete understanding of situations. Without this full understanding, one can easily waste everyone’s time by solving the wrong problem or merely addressing a symptom, not the root cause. 

Titans as Blackberry, Kodak and Nokia have paid the price for leaders who refused to listen. Their leaders operated in a bubble and engaged in group think. The greater your success, the more you need to stay in touch with fresh opinions and perspectives and welcome honest feedback. Listening is the best way to know about your clientele needs to create a successful strategy. Raw truth is needed to make well-informed decisions and steer the organization in the right direction. Good leaders are active listeners.

 Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” –Andy Stanley

Developing leadership skills is a lifetime project.It’s too easy, as a leader, to feel like you have to be the one who knows everything. Great leaders recognize that they need to keep learning. Leaders need to be willing to learn and be open to seeking input from both inside and outside their organizations. Feedback allows us and the organization to grow. Additionally, treat everyone you meet with respect, from the janitor to the CEO. Great business tips may come from the most unlikely sources.

Poor communication comes with a high price tag. It accounts for businesses losing millions of dollars each year. As a leader, your job is to encourage others around you to be open and honest without a negative consequence. When employees offer their ideas and differing opinions – be open-minded. Companies that remain strong in this competitive market, understand the need to embrace change and continuous improvement. More than ever, leaders will need to master the skill of “Lead with Listening.” The success of your business will depend on it!

Cathy Lindsey aka Skin Deeper

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