Listening Tips for Leaders

I did a coaching workshop with a team of managers a couple weeks ago, and while discussing the importance of listening in order to build trust, I realized many of them honestly didn’t know how to listen. The idea of closing the door, putting down their crackberries, and making eye contact seemed to be new revelations to them.

Have we forgotten, or never learned how to listen? To me, it’s a foundational leadership skill – most other leadership competencies are connected to the ability to listen.

So, here’s a refresher, from the website Listen More:

Make yourself available
– set aside specific hours to be available to your employees
– maintain a more relaxed open-door policy
– close your email and instant messaging windows, switch your cell phone to silent, send your phone calls to voice mail and close the door, if necessary
– consider reserving a conference room for serious discussions

Give your complete attention
– stop what you’re doing and focus completely on the employee. maintain eye contact and acknowledge key points
– postpone a conversation if you have a deadline or scheduling conflict

Write down key points
– jot down or make a mental note of key words, ideas and questions to ask later to minimize interruptions while someone is speaking
– note key points so you can have a point of reference later (if follow-up is needed)

Understand the message
– rephrase what you’ve heard to be sure you understand
– ask open-ended questions that encourage detailed answers. and wait a few seconds after the answer to encourage the speaker to say more
– double-check important facts and confirm appropriate follow through
– listen with an open and unbiased attitude, and refrain from going on the defensive. make sure you thoroughly understand the situation before taking a position