Improve Your Listening To Become A Better Leader

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

Here’s the setting… you’ve been asked to deliver a 30-minute presentation to managers on how to become a better communicator. Where does your mind take you… what might you deliver in a precious 30 minutes? I recently received that exact request and I’d like to share with you how everyone can become better communicators.

My career has taken me to every state and halfway around the world interacting with thousands of people. I've learned that true communication occurs when we listen to one another. When our communication results in each of us feeling heard, understood, and valued, relationships and trust deepen. I believe listening is a gift because when I do it well, people genuinely remark, “I really appreciate you listening.”

Are you a good listener, even a great listener? Think about the times when you listen best. What’s the setting, who is involved and what’s the topic? Take a moment and reflect specifically on what you do to ensure you’re listening deeply?

Now think of times when you struggle? What gets in your way… what emotions or thoughts do you experience… would I see anything in your behavior that suggests you’re not listening?

I’m not a gambler but I’ll make this bet… there are times when you do well and others when you struggle. If you’ve taken a moment to reflect, then I’ve helped you raise your awareness and develop insight about your listening. I encourage you to write down what you’ve identified and commit to taking action to limit the thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that get in your way and embody those that promote and result in understanding.

Here’s a couple of ideas that have helped me improve my listening. I check my emotional operating system because I know that I listen best when I operate with empathy and curiosity. I work to eliminate distractions and try to get eye to eye. I allow people time to finish their thoughts which means allowing for silence. I express value in what they’ve shared and then ask questions. This can sound like “tell me more’ or asking nuanced questions in context with what they’ve said. I work to hear “their truth” and use self-talk to stay engaged especially when hearing a truth different from my own. I want to fully understand before responding which sometimes is simply expressing appreciation to them for what they’ve shared.

To become a better communicator, focus on becoming a better listener. To become a better leader and manager, work to become a great listener. Listening requires energy, awareness, patience, and practice. If you focus on developing this aspect of your communication, I guarantee you and everyone you interact with will benefit.