Leadership is about building trust in your team. Listening makes our team feel worthy, appreciated and respected. It also fosters the skill in others by acting as a model for effective communication. Good listening also saves time and money by decreasing misunderstandings.
The skills needed to be a good listener can be developed, or re-developed, by anyone. It just takes initiative, drive and practice. I have found that the best way to start being a good listener is to act like a good listener. Just pretend.
Next time you find yourself in the presence of someone talking, pay attention to these things:
- Face the speaker and maintain eye contact (but don't stare)
- Don't look at your cell phone
- Focus on the speaker and give appropriate responses
- Squash your own, unrelated thoughts that creep in
- Keep an open mind, try to absorb their point before disagreeing
- Avoid telling the speaker how you would do it
- Let them finish and ask for clarification
If you create a listening culture in your organization, you will have employees know that their input about their job matters and is relevant. You also will assure your customer's concerns are addressed, leading to continuous improvement.
Improving the listening ability of your organization takes a bit more time, effort and energy.
- Become a good personal leader - Follow these steps from our previous articles: Become a Leader, Define Your Vision, Share Your Vision
- Develop a good plan of communication - In last month's issue we covered how to establish a good communications plan within your office.
- At meetings, have various staff members report / facilitate - The best way to teach your team that you value their input is to put them in a position to speak up. Sharing meeting duties or giving reports helps with this. Make a habit of asking for clarification during the meetings.
- Daily Huddles - We call ours a "Basic Meeting," because our agenda includes a small discussion of one of our 20 Basics. A few minutes of organized discussion daily is invaluable. It is important to have a topic to cover daily. For an idea, see this issue from the August edition of our newsletter.
- E-mails, Memos - Have a consistent method of inter-office communication. I have seen memo's and mailboxes, bulletin boards, e-mails and web-pages. All work well, if consistently used.
- Develop a Leadership Team - A big, big endeavor that is worth the effort. Defining your leaders, building their skills and establishing a culture of teamwork contributes to the creation of a listening organization more than anything .
- Retreat - My favorite. I like twice yearly office retreats to share ideas, set goals and just get your act together. LeadershipOD has a 2 day retreat guideline that you can use to get started or visit our Services page to find out how LeadershipOD can provide a full service retreat for you and your team.