Listening has to be one of the most important skills for good leaders. Done well, it enhances both relationships and productivity!
Although we may not always appreciate it, there is a difference between hearing and listening: one is a function, the other is a skill. This is much like the relationship between living on autopilot and really tuning in to our bodies.
A World of Noise
In a world where we are surrounded by noise, true listening can be a challenge. On top of a constant buzz of background sounds such as traffic and other peoples’ conversations, we also have a steady stream of audio from social media, videos and podcasts providing us with information, and from the radio and TV programmes that we seek out to help us relax.
Add to this the desire to jump in and speak while colleagues, friends or family are explaining something to us, sharing news or discussing their day, and it starts to become apparent that being inundated by this constant ‘noise’ from all sides can lead to an overload in our brains.
We may often find that we switch off – whether partially or entirely – even when we appear to still be ‘listening’. With so much going on, it is no wonder we only remember 25-50% of what we hear (Edgar Dale, Cone of Experience). As a result, when someone is trying to tell you something, the chances are that you will hear no more than half of the message, and this can impact the connections you have with others, both at work and at home.
Listening at Work
In workplace interactions, a greater focus on creating connections and ensuring good communication can have a positive impact on the mental wellbeing of individuals. This contributes to a feeling of being valued which in turn creates happier people who not only work harder, but are more likely to stick around!
The good news is that since effective listening is a skill, it is something that can be learned and consequently used to improve communications and relationships. For a leader this is invaluable as it can help with resolving conflicts that affect the workplace, as well as building a more productive team who feel more valued.
One way to do this is through active listening, which employs a number of different techniques that you might like to try. For example, the use of eye contact (where possible) which not only helps to focus your own attention, but also demonstrates to the speaker that you are listening. Another is to try and be conscious of your own intention to not interrupt or offer immediate feedback, thus ensuring you focus on what someone is saying to you, rather than how you will respond.
These are just a few of the techniques we will be practising in our Power of Listening workshop on Friday 11th September, as we explore the power of truly listening, and develop the skills to do so effectively.
This is one of the Conscious Leaders Power Series of workshops, and is open to leaders in organisations who are looking to empower and engage their teams through progressive and conscious leadership.