Almost everyone believes that they’re a good listener. But the reality is, very few of us listen effectively. According to research by Wright University, the average person listens at only about 25% efficiency.
Sorry, can you say that again?
That means there’s lot information that most of us are missing. Effective leadership is essentially effective listening, and working on becoming a great listener can have many benefits:
- you will get more information from the people you manage
- you will increase others’ trust in you
- you will reduce conflict
- you will better understand how to motivate others
- and you will inspire a higher level of commitment in the workplace.
Effective listening is a skill that can be learned and mastered. Here are some tips to help you put on your listening ears.
- Be present. This may seem like a simple suggestion but focusing on what is being said sometimes can be the most challenging. Most of us tend to let our minds wander off and we begin thinking about we are going to say next or how what is being said could potentially affect us. Be mindful, because when you’re fully aware in the moment, you’re more likely to retain what you’re hearing and respond with more authenticity.
- Ditch the phone. Most of us can multi-task like a boss. But when it comes to trying to listen to a conversation well and monitor your phone at the same time. The phone wins. Not to mention what a turn-off it is to have someone mid-conversation responds to a text message. Commit to the conversation and focus all your energy on it. You will find that conversations are more enjoyable and effective when you immerse yourself in them.
- Be curious. Part of effective listening isn’t just lending your ear, but asking appropriate follow-up questions to draw out more information. This ability to provide thought-provoking feedback is one of the best ways to show you’re engaged in what the other person has to say. Effective probing is nonjudgmental and flows from what was previously said. Good probing questions ask for elaboration, clarification, and repetition not to start a new topic.
- Practice reflecting. Everyone wants to be heard. When we listen we should show the other party that what they are saying to us is being heard. Reflecting is paraphrasing back to the speaker what they said. By doing this you give the speaker the opportunity to clarify what she meant to say. When we practice reflective listening, don’t simply repeat the speaker’s words, use your own to show that you’ve absorbed the information.
- Listen more than you speak. There’s a direct correlation between strong leadership and strong listening skills. If you’re not checking for understanding or asking a probing question, you shouldn’t be talking. As Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Group writes, the most effective leaders and entrepreneurs listen more than they speak.
To be a good leader you have to be a great listener. Brilliant ideas can spring from the most unlikely places, so you should always keep your ears open for some shrewd advice. This can mean following online comments as closely as board meeting notes, or asking the frontline staff for their opinions as often as the CEOs. Get out there, listen to people, draw people out and learn from them.