It’s easy for leaders to fall into the trap of thinking they need to have the answer to every problem or situation that arises. After all, that’s in a leader’s job description, right? Solve problems, make decisions, have answers…that’s what we do! Why listen to others when you already know everything?
Good leaders know they don’t have all the answers. They spend time listening to the ideas, feedback, and thoughts of their people, and they incorporate that information into the decisions and plans they make. When a person feels listened to, it builds trust, loyalty, and commitment in the relationship. Here are some tips for building trust by improving the way you listen in conversations:
- Don’t interrupt – It’s rude and disrespectful to the person you’re speaking with and it conveys the attitude, whether you mean it or not, that what you have to say is more important than what he or she is saying.
- Make sure you understand – Ask clarifying questions and paraphrase to ensure that you understand what the person is trying to communicate. Generous and empathetic listening is a key part of Habit #5 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood – of Covey’s famous Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
- Learn each person’s story – The successes, failures, joys, and sorrows that we experience in life weave together to form our “story.” Our story influences the way we relate to others, and when a leader takes time to understand the stories of his followers, he has a much better perspective and understanding of their motivations. Chick-fil-a uses an excellent video in their training programs that serves as a powerful reminder of this truth.
- Stay in the moment – It’s easy to be distracted in conversations. You’re thinking about the next meeting you have to run to, the pressing deadline you’re up against, or even what you need to pick up at the grocery store on the way home from work! Important things all, but they distract you from truly being present and fully invested in the conversation. Take notes and practice active listening to stay engaged.
My grandpa was fond of saying “The Lord gave you two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion.” Leaders can take a step forward in building trust with those they lead by speaking less and listening more. You might be surprised at what you learn!
Excellent post and such an important topic. This is a daily practice for me since listening is one of my biggest challenges. It is possible to get better at being a good listener though – and worth it!
Thanks Jamie, I appreciate your feedback.
Hang in there…excellent listening skills are a challenge for many people!
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Yes I agree. I see so many leaders stealing other people’s decisions just because they already have an answer to the problem. Whereas the leaders should be supporting and coaching other people to make their own decisions. This requires first both listening and inquiring in the ways you have oultined before the leader can support and coach.
Thanks for your input Terry. You make a great point that leaders should be focused on developing their people to be self reliant problem-solvers, and when the leader takes that away by always having the answer, it creates a state of learned helplessness for the employee.
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Well written, as usual, Randy.
Listening is a skill and one that doesn’t necessarily come easy. It’s one that should continually be practiced by all of us until it is second nature and then we should still be aware of our need to put it first over speaking.
I’m no different. I’ve often heard I’m a good listener but I confess I can and need to do better to be more effective and serving at what I do.
Thanks for the quality post Randy.
Thanks for the feedback Michael. I’m in the same boat you are…it’s always a learning and growing process.
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i have found the information helpful.Leaders do not have all the answers,hence the need to listen well and perhaps get a solution
I think i need to improve on my listening skills
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Worth reading and putting it to practice!!! Really it explains in easy way, how to listen, understand and get into your team mates inputs being shared on which how to built a trustworthy relations among team and leave your image as team caring leader.
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