Being a good listener is absolutely essential if you want to become a good leader. The worst leaders don't listen; they'd much rather just talk. It's the truly effective leaders who know how important it is to communicate better with people by becoming better listeners. Here are some tips.
Be with the speaker
When you are listening to what another person is saying, give them your undivided attention. "People will not open up fully till they feel you are concentrating on what they're saying," says Ronesh Puri, MD of headhunting firm Executive Access. "Don't switch off in the middle of what they are saying. Your body language gives you away every time. Display a friendly, open attitude and body language," he says.
People feel comfortable sharing when they are not interrupted. So put that Blackberry on 'silent' and avoid looking at your watch or taking sneak peeks at the computer. Just focus on what the other person is saying.
Ask questions that let the other person know that you are interested in what they are saying and want to learn more. "I've always found that these draw people out. I had quite a few such conversations with a bright performer whose performance had slumped of late. It was only after several such meetings that he felt I genuinely cared enough for him to confide in me. It took time but we fixed the problem," says a team leader in an information technology firm who does not wish to be named.
Wit hold judgement
A leader needs to be open to new ideas and new perspectives. A judgmental attitude hardly ever works. "Avoid the tendency of discounting what the other person is saying simply because it's contrary to your own beliefs. Accept that there can be different views," says Puri.
Avoid giving advice
People aren't always looking for someone to solve their problems. At times, they just need someone to listen; someone to let off steam to. It's important for a leader to understand that and simply empathize on such occasions.