leadership listening skills

Leadership Listening Skills – Power Keys to Communication

Communication skill plays a powerful role in leadership.  With that said, the most formidable facet of administrative communication is leadership listening skills. We’re going to highlight a few essential leadership listening skills in the following paragraphs.

1.Learn to Recognize Non-verbal Cues

Some people are natural listeners, but most of us have to learn how to listen more effectively. Listening is more than hearing, which involves ears receiving spoken words.  When people speak, over half of what they are communicating is non-verbal. Active listening requires more than ears to hear. I won’t try to quantify words vs tone vs body cues like Mehrabian. Still, it only takes one discussion using observation to realize non-verbal communication is critical to leadership listening skills.

Step 1 in Listening: Look at the speaker and maintain eye contact to catch non-verbal cues.

2. Dive Beyond Spoken Words to Real Issues

A friend with customer service experience at an airline had an interesting listening skill to share. She explained that what people complained about, i.e. lost bag that went to Napal, isn’t always what the real issue is. In a discussion involving a complaint, the first step is discovering the real problem, i.e. wife went to Napal too. Only then can a skilled leader address it. i.e. We probably can return the luggage but not the wife. 

Step 2 in Listening: Ask the right questions and listen to the answers to discover the real message being conveyed.

leadership listening skills - power keys to communication
Leadership Listening Skills are Powerful Keys to Communication

3. Active Leadership Listening Skills

This takes some work.  Not every speaker is engaging, but they obviously feel they have something to say.  Pay attention and show your leadership listening skills with appropriate responses, at suitable times.  Issuing an “uhm” every so often doesn’t count as active listening.  Instead, focusing on their words and body language helps you become engaged in the discussion.  It also shows respect for the speaker, and that helps build trust. 

Step 3 in listening: Actively listen by focusing on the speaker and their message.  Acknowledge what they are conveying.

4. Avoid Interruptions

Don’t interrupt the speaker except for urgent issues.  If you are expecting an urgent call during the meeting, let the speaker know ahead of time that getting that call is a possibility. If it is a bad time to stop and listen, schedule a better time for you and the speaker to meet. 

Don’t interrupt someone when they speak to you.  Wait for them to express their thoughts or concerns, then respond.  Constant interruptions prevent you from getting the whole message.  Often, speakers cut part of their message out when they feel you aren’t being receptive.  There is much to learn by simply hearing someone out.  You can get a feel for where your team stands, and what they need to get the job done more effectively.  Want to save time on repairs and do overs? Take time to listen to your team.

Step 4 in listening: Do not interrupt the speaker

5. Steer clear of Defensive Responses or Judgment

Unskilled or delayed speakers can put even good leaders on the defensive.  By taking the time to calm down and process their message, you can respond more professionally.  Without drama, leaders can use communication as an opportunity to share their insights or goals and engage their team members to work to achieve them.  Angry, defensive or judgmental responses waste time and destroy communication channels.  They also use energy that could be more profitably applied.  Take the time to process what is being said and to reach your calm.

Step 5 in listening: Keep a calm and open mind.  Take the time to process the message before responding.

6. Empathy Leads to Understanding

By imagining yourself in the speakers position when they explain their concerns, you can develop empathy for them.  Empathy leads to understanding, which can accelerate problem resolution. It also helps improve engagement with the speaker.

Step 6 in Listening:  If you want to understand the subject matter, put yourself in the speaker’s shoes.

7. Leaders Don’t Always Need to be Right

Leadership requires service to others, but leaders don’t always have to be right.  Good leadership provides workplace management service for the company.  Service to your team helps build teamwork and growth.  To truly provide service in leadership, leaders need to know when to check their egos at the door.  Someone who always needs to be right, is limited in communication skills. Always being right means not being able to listen to alternative perspectives.

Step 7 in Listening: Let Go of Always Needing to Be Right

There are whole courses in listening, but the real game changer for great leadership is listening skills.  Putting in the effort and being present almost always results in development of leadership listening skills. 

By simply making the effort to listen, some of the skills you need fall into place.  Focusing, for example, automatically requires active listening and the limitation of interruptions.  Want more? CommandReady hosts a place to practice listening and sharing.  Join The Leader Core where other skilled high level leaders hold discussions and share ideas.