Read any book or article about the necessary talents to be a great Leader, and effective communication skills are dominate, particularly the ability to be a great listener. Mastering listening is one of the five key essentials in communication that every Manager needs.
To get you started, follow these 5 practical tips:
1) Use open questions, not just closed
When you want to uncover your customers needs, improve your negotiation techniques, or understand why there is conflict, use open questions. They are key in understanding the other persons position.
Some people get into the habit of asking closed questions or searching for quick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses. They make assumptions to try and save time. Open questions are powerful initiators to the art of listening and begin with who, where, what, how and why?
2) Adapt your listening style to the other person’s culture.
When working with international clients and colleagues, it’s important to adapt your listening style. I worked in Asia for 10 years and found that professionals in China are extremely respectful. They listen intensely to others, especially their Leaders. They acknowledge what is being said ‘carefully’ and with quiet empathy. Be aware of who you are speaking to, because their culture should influence your listening style.
3) Practise listening without interrupting
You may have heard about active listening, it is an important technique to master and uses the powers of the senses. Being able to listen without interrupting is a powerful skill. One of the world’s leading sound experts, Julian Treasure said in his viral TED talk – 5 ways to listen better “we are losing our listening.“
Next time you engage with colleagues, clients or family, listen with intent. You may discover more than you might imagine and build an even stronger relationship.
4) Don’t think about what you will say while the other person is speaking.
In this interesting article in the Huffington Post there is a unique definition of effective listening:
“Listening involves letting the person finish their sentence completely and orientating your response around them, not yourself.”
Listen without thinking about a response or question, therefore avoiding the distractions of how you are going to reply. This will help you to see non-verbal cues and identify those things that are not being said.
5) Actively listen for what’s under the surface
Look for cues in tone and body language and actively seek what’s not being said but being suggested. This can be led by the emphasis on how the person presents the conversation, their conviction and their attitude.
Take the next step
If you are a new or an experienced Manager, there is no doubt that effective listening skills are essential. They optimise productivity, efficiency and performance. With so much at stake, I encourage you to make a start as soon as possible. Find out more with our Effective Communication Training Course.