These two words may not be often associated together. Your first impression could well be that you see leaders as talking more than they listen. This would not only be true for leaders, this would be true for all of us. Some time ago I heard one say that they cannot remember a time when the learned something while they were talking, but have learned many things when they listened. Perhaps that is why God made us with one mouth and two ears! What benefits are there for a leader who will truly take the time and practice the art of listening? Allow me to suggest a few:
- Listening allows us to assume the position of a learner. Listening fights the desire to do most of the speaking in the group. While listening to others, we show a willingness to learn and to be open to the suggestions of others. Listening allows us the time and creates an environment of trust and collaboration.
- Listening allows us to focus on others. Oftentimes the spotlight shines on the leader. Share the limelight and focus on the ideas and suggestions from the other members of the team.
- Listening helps us to develop empathy. In the posture of hearing from others, we can develop the ability to really feel with and begin to understand the perspective of various members of our staff and team. Leaders who make a difference have developed an ability to empathize with others
- Open ears lead to an open mind. Open mouths have a tendency to close minds. Positioning yourself as someone who is receiving information and plans from others, causes you to examine things from another perspective.
- Listening assists us with formulating questions. Anyone making a presentation is helped by having people listen and then ask clarifying questions. This helps all of us to hone our thinking and presenting skills.
- Good listeners not only hear the words they also become better at reading body language. Body language is a part of the way everyone communicates and is something more difficult to notice if you are doing all the talking. Listening allows you to focus on the one speaking.
- Listen to learn not in order to fix. Some of us listen to learn, but with an attitude that I will correct all of their mistakes. Trying to fix everything overrides one’s ability to learn and process information. There will be a time to fix things, first, we must listen to learn and understand.
- Listen for what is not said as well as what is being said. A crucial part of conversations is not what was said but what was left unsaid. There are many reasons things may be left unsaid, from the speaker not knowing, to the speaker being uncomfortable with certain aspects of what is being discussed. It is the leaders’ responsibility to probe all of the issues.
There is power in developing the habit and skill of being a good listener. Why not start with ourselves? This is a habit worth taking the time to develop.