Strong Leaders Listen Actively: Has a boss or mentor ever asked, “What do you think?” Did they listen to your ideas and suggestions? If so, count yourself lucky. Melissa Daimler, who has led Global Learning & Organizational Development at Adobe, Twitter and WeWork, says top leaders reach a new level when they care to ask that question.
Strong Leaders Listen Actively
“As leaders in our organizations, it’s up to us to coach colleagues and our employees through finding the answer,” says Daimler. “It can be a powerful technique, especially if there is no single right answer – a situation that will be familiar to anyone doing leading-edge work. But it only works in an organization that values listening.”
Actively listening means giving your complete, intentional focus to what someone says, rather than what their words literally mean. In the words of Lee Iacocca, former president and CEO of Chrysler Corporation, “Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”
Tom Haughton, a vice-president with My Place Realty (MPR) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, says he believes open communication is the key to his success. “And active listening is one of the most critical components of open communication,” he adds.
During a typical day that includes attending meetings with his team and analyzing the company’s performance, Tom Haughton asks a lot of questions. “I take time to make sure that I am listening and that I understand the situation,” he says. “Then I clarify what they really need and validate their thinking.”
Glen Llopis, owner of a nationally recognized workforce development and business strategy consulting firm, says that when employees ask to be heard—they are really saying they want leaders who will not just hear them, but really listen to them.
“As employees seek more attention, feedback and support,” says Llopis, “leaders must become more mindful of individual needs in order to more effectively inspire professional development and overall performance. Leaders who listen are able to create trustworthy relationships that are transparent and breed loyalty.”
Stacey Hanke, author of the book, Influence Redefined…Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, says that leaders of influence understand that their ability to listen is as critical to their impact on others as their ability to communicate: “They recognize the importance of setting positive examples and modeling the kinds of skills they want employees to adopt.”
According to Hanke, “When employees observe leaders listening intently, putting others first, demonstrating consistency and investing in their ongoing communication skills development, they will follow suit.”