Real Listening

“Lean forward . . . keep your eyes focused . . . nod your head . . . that’s good!” If you’ve ever attended a seminar on listening you likely heard those instructions. I’m asking you now—please forget it!

Real listening, by which I mean genuine listening that allows you to bring out the best in your people, comes from far below the surface. I myself had to learn, and have shared with thousands of leaders since, a set of skills that will help you do just that. If you begin practicing these 5 skills you will be surprised at how the people you lead will respond more positively and more quickly to you.

Skill #1: Stop, Drop, and Listen

o   When your employees are speaking to you, drop everything else you are doing and listen.

o   Be there and nowhere else.

o   This first skill will send a message to your employees: I value you and want to hear what you are thinking.

Skill #2: Suspend Judgment

o   When you are talking to a team member, learn to hold back your first response and make no judgment until you have exhausted your conversation with this associate.

Skill #3: Search Deeper

o   Bring out what the other person is thinking by probing deeper.

o   Ask revealing questions such as: How do you mean that? Can you give me an example?

Skill #4: Seek Misunderstanding

o   When the dialogue reaches a decision point, whether in the moment or days later, speak up and say, “I want to clarify what I understand about this issue so there is no miscommunication between us.”

o   Then restate the key point and invite your associate to amend or correct it. 

Skill #5: Show Appreciation

o   It takes courage for employees to have an honest dialogue with you, their leader, so when it happens, celebrate it!

o   Thank them, ideally in person but at the very least over the phone.

o   This will encourage them to repeat the behavior.

These 5 skills are reviewed in depth in Chapter 5 of my book A Leader’s Gift – How to Earn the Right to Be Followed.