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A Leader Listens

"Listening is appreciating others and is the best way to build trust."We all have the need to be recognized and valued. The easiest and fastest way to recognize someone is by listening to them and accepting them the way they are. You listen intently, allowing them to show you the world through their eyes. You get a broad picture as you listen to the opinions of others, and you are enabled to lead towards a common goal. A good listener is able to see the world through the eyes of others. Listening helps us to understand different kinds of opinions and see the big picture. This also helps us in leading people with different personalities and strengths towards a common goal. Chances are, whoever you believe are the greatest leaders who ever led you got that distinction from you because they communicated to you that they were listening to you.Employees respect those leaders that listen, because they know how difficult listening can be.Here are a few statistics that will really make you think about the importance of effective listening.

  • 85% of what we know we have learned through listening

  • Humans generally listen at a 25% comprehension rate

  • In a typical business day, we spend 45% of our time listening, 30% of our time talking, 16% reading and 9% writing

  • Less than 2% of all professionals have had formal education or learning to understand and improve listening skills and techniques

Most of us think we are good listeners and would be shocked to know that others don’t seem them that way, and actually perceive them as impatient, judgmental, arrogant, or unaware. The ability to lead diminished with the inability to listen, however. So how do you know if your listening skills need help?You’re easily distracted. You multitask, accept phone calls, shuffle papers, don’t give consistent eye contact.It’s hard for you to focus on the moment. Instead of actually listening, you are thinking about what comes next. You start planning what you will say in response instead of giving a complete listen, or you even check completely out, planning something else completely unrelated to the conversation you are having.You jump in almost immediately with advice. You give an answer when others just want a hearing, or perhaps the other person hasn’t actually even been able to finish explaining their perspective.You attempt to redirect others’ feeling or tell them what to feel. Emotions are part of people’s every day experience, work included. Don’t tell other people how to feel. Don’t act uncomfortable with others are emotionalYou try to fill the silence. You don’t have to respond to every comment. Silence is thinking time, not a bad thing. You talk significantly more than anyone else in the room.Even if you hit 5 for 5 on those bad habits, you can become a great listener if you will:Become a humble learner. Decide to shelve your ego and learn something from everything and everyone.Listen to understand. Not to reply. Concentrate on understanding, not replying.Ask follow-up questions.Don’t interrupt. Let others speak at their own pace.Put your phone and other devices away. Give the other person your 100% focus.Empathize. Feel with them and show that you care. Great leaders know how to balance the head and the heart.Engage in matters that are important to those you lead. Embrace their styles and causes as much as you can.Refrain from judging. Criticizing those who don’t agree or who have a different approach prevent themselves from learning and set barriers.Be mindful. Listen to the environment, the body language, the facial expressions, and nods of the people. Stay tuned in to the dynamics around you.Pay attention to your own body language. Leaders who appear disconnected and disengaged communicate to their team members that they don’t care and do not value the team.“What do you think?” It’s a great question to ask, IF you are truly committed to listen. It only works in an organization that values people and listening. There are not a lot of things that remain the same for very long, and so many variables we can’t control. It is very important to actually listen to everyone and create an environment where information is actually valued and shared.The skills we just mentioned for listening will lead us to the highest level of listening.Internal listening is focused on your own thoughts, worries, and priorities; even as you pretend you’re focusing on the other person. You may have your phone in hand.Focused listening is being able to focus on the other person, but you’re still not connecting fully to them. The phone may be down, and you may be nodding in agreement, but you may not be picking up on the small nuances the person is sharing.360 listening is where the magic happens. You’re not only listening to what the person is saying, but how they’re saying it — and, even better, what they’re not saying, like when they get energized about certain topics or when they pause and talk around others.Listening creates energy. Listening is perhaps the skill you need most to lead well in the challenge you currently face.

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