“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.