Communication is an absolute key element of your business.
Unfortunately for some of us, communication includes listening to other people talk, as well as talking ourselves. One of the most valuable skills you can have as a leader is the ability to listen well. This is not always the easiest thing to do.
Over my 15+ years of managing teams ranging from 3-30 members, I’ve had to really focus on my listening skills. I’ve always been a pretty good listener, but man do I love to talk!
When you’re leading a team, you need to know what your people are thinking, what problems exist in your workplace, and what other ideas your team may have that can improve business. In order to do this, you MUST LISTEN TO THEM.
Listening is not:
> Staring at them while thinking of what you are about to say in response to them.
> Checking your phone for emails, texts, or the latest social trend.
> Shutting up, turning everything off, and focusing on what the other person is saying.
> Processing what they have said, making sure you understand what they have said, and then responding appropriately.
Recently, I was speaking with someone on my team and they described a problem they’ve been having with someone they manage. They have been trying to understand why this person is struggling with their responsibilities. While listening to the situation as she told it, it was clear that she was not listening to her team member very well and we were not going to solve the issue until she did.
So I put together a list of things for her to focus on when listening to her team and I thought I’d share it with you too! Yea, you are welcome.
1. Clear Your Head and Shut Up
Your job as a listener is to receive information openly and accurately. Take a second and prepare your mind to begin to listen. It sounds like a potentially lengthy process, but its essential.
2. Stop Thinking about What You Want to Say
Focus on what the other person is saying. Don’t have all your responses or rebuttals cued up. Instead, make sure you know exactly what they are trying to say.
3. Put Your Stupid Phone Away
Don’t check your phone for emails, texts, new followers, snapchats, or anything else. Put it away or turn it off. Even if you’re not in the same room with them, give them your full attention. Listening is a full time job. Your mind is not as amazing as you think; it can only focus fully on one thing at a time. (by the way, checking your phone while someone is speaking to you… thats just rude, bro.)
4. Don’t Be Scared; Make Eye Contact
You’re a big kid now. Look people in the eyes. It not only lets them know you are paying attention, but it also displays confidence. And quite honestly, it’s just rude not to look at someone when they’re speaking to you.
5. Ask Questions When You Don’t Understand Something
Woah! Wait a minute. I know, crazy thought, huh? If you don’t understand what they just said, ask them to explain it. It’s really okay to admit you don’t understand. Really, it is.
6. You’re Not Always Right. Keep An Open Mind
You’re not always going to agree with what people say to you, but instead of immediately challenging their point of view, see if you can find some common ground. Try to put yourself in their shoes and see if you can understand where they’re coming from.
7. Why The Heck Are We Talking?
Figure out the goal. Why are you listening? What is the point of this conversation? While listening, ask yourself what the goal is. This will help you keep the flow of information in line with the reason for the meeting.
8.Body Language Is Truth Language
Pay attention to what their body language is saying. If they’re talking about how excited they are about the new direction of the company, but their arms are crossed, their back is slouched, and they’re looking down at their feet, they may not feel the way they say. If their body language says something different than their words, ask questions and figure out how they really feel.
9. Repeat What They Say In Your Own Words
Instead of replying with your own thoughts, make sure you understand what they said first. Repeat what they have just said, but in your own words. Something like, “So what you’re saying is that we can increase our social media engagement by including more pictures with our posts, correct?” This will allow them to clarify their thoughts if you didn’t quite hear them correctly. Or it will confirm that you properly understand their point.
Focus on these 9 things and I promise you’ll become a better listener and see a complete shift in the results of conversations you have with friends, family members, superiors, and the people you lead.
Let me know how you’ve implemented these focuses into your daily routine.
Have another tip for becoming a better listener? Comment below and let me know!