by Marcia Zidle, Columnist & Featured Contributor
ARE YOUR PEOPLE saying this about you?
She interrupts….He’s not really interested in what I have to say….She’s already made up her mind… Why does he even bother to ask what we think, he doesn’t listen?”
AS LEADERS, many of us take our listening skills for granted. We assume we’re really listening and that “others” know they’re being heard. Many times that’s not the case.
Then, without warning, there’re misunderstandings, hurt feelings and conflicts that prevent people from working well together and leaders from leading effectively.
Good Leaders are Good Listeners.
So how many of these 10 behaviors can you say YES to?
- I ‘m doing several things at once while others are talking to me.
- I have a hard time concentrating on what is being said.
- I am annoyed when someone slows me down.
- I think what I want to say next rather than what is being said.
- I don’t like it when someone questions my ideas or actions.
- I’m impatient waiting for the person to finish talking.
- I give advice before the other has fully explained the situation.
- I tend to talk significantly more than the other person talks.
- I don’t know at the end of some conversations what it was about.
- I’m uncomfortable and don’t know what to do if the speaker expresses emotions.
Whether you answered 1 to 3 yesses which is good) or even 8-10 (which is not so good), everyone can improve. First it takes intention (realizing it’s an important leadership skill) and then practice (applying the tips below on a regular basis.)
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Five Ways to Boost Your Listening Skills
- Limit distractions.
Silence technology – that means phones, beepers, instant messages and anything else than can sidetrack you – so that you can pay full attention. Recent research shows multi-tasking lowers productivity as well as concentration.
- Focus on the moment.
Listen to what is being said, not figuring out what you want to say. Set a goal of being able to repeat the last sentence the other person says. This keeps your attention on each statement.
- Be OK with silence.
Count to ten or even twenty before replying. It also gives you a chance to collect your thoughts and the other person may continue with some good nuggets of information. Realize, you don’t have to always reply or have a comment.
- Summarize and clarify.
Restate the key points to make sure what you heard are accurate. For example
“You suggested……is that correct?”
Or, if you don’t understand,
“I’ve missed something, somewhere; can you go back to …”?
- Notice the unspoken.Pay attention to tone of voice, body language, emotion and what isn’t being said. It’s not just the words; it’s what’s behind the words.[/message]
Smart Moves Tip:
Listen actively to people around you, especially those who challenge your ideas. A highly successful health care manager said, “I listen carefully even to the opinions that totally contradict my own beliefs. I want to make sure that when I make big decisions, I hadn’t missed anything.”
How well do you follow the 80-20 rule? That’s 20 percent talking and 80 percent listening?