A good leader is able to effectively communicate their thoughts and opinions to their workers. While it’s important for leaders to be able to share their thoughts, it’s equally important that leaders have the ability to listen to the wants and needs of those working under their direction. One survey found that not feeling heard is the second most common complaint. Below are some of the ways that you can incorporate active listening in your day-to-day routine.
1) Pay Attention
This may seem like an obvious tip, and that’s because it is. Paying attention is the first step to actively listening to your employees. It can be difficult sometimes to give someone your completely undivided attention, but you can start by genuinely hearing what the person is saying. Try not to object, cut them off, or spend the whole time figuring out how you plan to respond. Instead, take the time to process what the person is saying to you.
A good way to ensure that you’re actually listening is to repeat what the person has said to you. This can be in the form of summarizing their thoughts, paraphrasing their feelings, and asking questions for clarification. By repeating what the speaker is saying, you’re not only showing the speaker that you’re listening to them, but you’re also creating a mutual understanding between the two of you. This alignment will give you the ability to lead your workers in a direction that works for both of you.
2) Use Non-verbal Cues
Your non-verbal feedback is equally as important as verbal feedback when showing someone that you’re actively listening to them. Learning to appropriately use your body language to show you’re paying attention goes a long way in strengthening the relationship between the speaker and listener. You can start by making eye contact to show the speaker that you’re listening to them, and nodding periodically to show that you understand what they’re saying. Limit the distractions that could take your attention away from them. This means putting down your phone, turning off your computer, and removing anything else that will keep you from concentrating on the conversation. These simple actions will reassure the speaker that you care about what they have to say.
Don’t focus so much on your non-verbal that you let your mind wander from what the person is saying to you. Do just enough so that the person is encouraged to keep talking, but not so much that you’re distracting yourself. This will help strengthen the relationship between you and your workers, and reassure them that their thoughts are valued.
3) Remain Approachable
Active listening doesn’t only happen when a conversation is happening, but it also happens before the conversation even takes place. The first step is to remain accessible to your workers. If you’re a leader who often needs to be away from the office or who is sometimes unreachable, then it might be appropriate to look into Voice over IP communication, which makes it possible for you to be reached on any device that has an internet connection. This technology allows you to receive phone calls, text messages, documents, videos, and other forms of communication through a medium that is convenient for both the sender and the receiver, which will give your team the confidence to reach out to you.
Once your workers are confident they can reach you when the need arises, you have to help people feel comfortable enough to actually do it. You can do this by keeping an open mind during conversations and refraining from judgemental comments or statements. Encourage people to give constructive criticism without fear that they’re questioning your leadership. It also might be beneficial to learn how to be more inclusive with your workers to make sure you’re not unintentionally silencing the voices of those around you. The more you assure your workers that you are genuinely interested in the things they have to say, the more you’ll see them coming to you with questions and concerns— creating a more productive workforce.
4) Practice These Skills Outside the Office
The only way you can get better at active listening is to practice. While active listening has immense benefits in the workplace, it can also be very beneficial to your home life as well. Practice these skills when talking to your friends or your spouse, and keep doing it until these practices become second nature for you. You’ll find that not only will your personal relationships improve, but you will slowly build trust and gain respect from the people you manage as well.