Updated: May 9
One of the biggest skills a leader can have is actively listening to their team members.
What does it mean to really listen?
We all think we listen, but after you finish a conversation with someone, how much can you repeat back? The key to this skill is not listening to consider how you want to respond, but listening for true understanding. True listening is intertwined with curiosity about what others are saying, feeling, and thinking.
Why do purpose-driven leaders need to build their listening skills?
Although we often envision leaders as standing up on their white horse and leading the charge, being quiet and listening to people is a key skill to advance your leadership because listening..
builds trust. People develop trust when they feel heard and that their opinions matter.
allows for better decision-making. Listening allows you to hear multiple perspectives and learn to make more informed decisions.
drives innovation. By adopting an attitude of listening, you will encourage your team to share a range of ideas and come up with novel solutions.
fosters inclusivity. More than any DEI program, you want to signal that all voices matter, and taking time to listen to all voices (without judgement!) signals to people that they are welcome and they belong.
How can I build my listening skills?
Listening skills are key to empathy and relationship building, and I give some tips for being intentional about listening to your team in this blog post. The strategies below supplement that framework.
If you want to get your people talking, start by asking good questions. Well-crafted, open-ended questions will spark creative thinking, increase engagement, uncover insights and encourage innovation.
Free Cheatsheet: "10 (+1) Questions Every Leader Should Ask"
Download this free guide to give you ideas of questions to ask to get your people talking!
I can't remember where I heard this term, but basically, it refers to the idea that you want to repeat back to people what they said. The idea of headlining is to focus on the key points and the impact. You don't want to necessarily just repeat back the same words but demonstrate that you understood the ideas the speaker shared. Creating a headline for what they say will help you focus on what they say instead of thinking about how you want to respond.
Wait time has been used for years in education. It refers to the time you wait after asking a question. Research has found that by waiting 15-20 seconds, you are more likely to get a response. The challenge to leaders is to allow silence and not rush to fill it by asking more or explaining what you want to hear. If you have ever tried it, you will quickly realize that 20 seconds feels like forever, but it is worth it. By waiting, you signal to your team that you want to hear their thoughts.
Make a plan for practicing one of the above skills today. Challenge yourself to practice it at least once a day for the next week. Consider when you will do it, and with whom. Then take time to reflect at the end of the week.