Why Good Leaders Must Be Good Listeners

As a company leader, setting expectations, providing feedback, and solving critical business problems are likely skills that come naturally. So how are your listening skills?

You likely achieved a leadership position because of your natural ability to speak and manage, but listening is often a skill that is often difficult for many business leaders to develop.

The case for leaders to develop good listening skills is an easy one to make from a business improvement perspective. Making employees feel like their voices are heard generates engagement, motivation, and creates a positive company culture. These factors ultimately lead to improved productivity, which can help accelerate your business towards its desired results. Furthermore, as a company leader, you strive to surround yourself with the best in class talent, so expert listening lets you take advantage of your management team’s full problem solving capabilities and diverse thinking. 

Taking the time to actively listen to your employees, management team, board members, and advisors unlocks a variety of benefits that are key to creating a company culture that is built to succeed, which is why many business consulting programs focus on developing soft skills among leadership teams. 

How Leaders Can Improve Listening Skills

From a business improvement perspective, we find that leaders who take the time to develop active listening skills are better equipped to drive their desired business outcomes.

1. Engage In The Things That Matter

Your employees offer unique perspectives on a multitude of aspects about your company and its performance. They can shed light on things that aren’t working well, escalate internal issues that you may not be aware of, and provide valuable insights on your products and services. As a result, it’s wise to engage with your employees on the things that matter to them. Not only will it make them feel as if their voices are being heard, but it can also help you gain a more comprehensive understanding around how your company is functioning. A business improvement program can help you better identify the things that matter to your employees, so you’ll be better equipped to listen for, and address, them.

2. Empathize With Your Employees

It isn’t always enough to just listen to your employees. You should also genuinely care about what they have to say. Make it a habit to repeat back what you hear during one on one discussions or town hall meetings. Be clear about what you intend to do with your employee’s feedback, and most importantly, make sure to follow through on your commitments. Employees want to work for leaders who have their best interest in mind, and being able to listen and empathize is important for creating a culture of respect and productivity. Many business improvement programs will tell you that a positive culture has a major impact on business performance

3. Think Before You Criticize

Many leaders can be quick to judge or outright dismiss an employee’s feedback. Even if you’re not entirely aligned with another point of view, think carefully before expressing criticism during the discussion. There is always something you can learn from every conversation within your company, so it’s important to go into each discussion with an open mind, and open ears.

4. Be Mindful Of Nonverbal Communications

When you’re actively listening, you naturally display signs of nonverbal communication like direct eye contact, head nodding, and facial expressions. When a speaker notices you displaying signs of nonverbal communication, they’ll get the idea that you are engaged, attentive, and listening. Fake nonverbal cues are obvious and easy to spot, so it’s important that you’re actually listening and genuinely engaged in conversation.

5. Avoid Interrupting 

Leaders are often eager to provide feedback and set expectations, but active listening means allowing the other person to fully communicate their thoughts without interruption. A good leader will encourage the flow of dialogue as it’s critical to ensure the discussion remains conversational in nature. If an employee is interrupted while expressing their viewpoints, he or she will be quick to shut down and may be reluctant to engage in future conversations.

6. Ask Questions

Asking questions not only helps show others that you are engaged, it can help you ensure that you do understand the points that others are trying to convey. The more questions you ask, the more information you will ultimately take away from a conversation. Asking questions is also a way to signal your interest and engagement in a particular topic, which may encourage a speaker to go deeper into a particular subject.

How Active Listening Can Make You A Better Leader

Through a professional business consulting program, CEOs and managers can develop crucial listening skills  that will ultimately help them transform into better leaders. Below are several ways you’ll benefit from developing listening skills through business consulting:

  • Better Decision Making Abilities – Some studies suggest that 85% of what we know comes from listening. Listening arms you with the knowledge needed to make good decisions.
  • You’ll Be Able To Anticipate Problems – A leader that is capable of listening to employee concerns will benefit from a greater awareness of the problems, issues, and concerns going on throughout the organization. As a result, he or she will be more capable of anticipating and dealing with problems.
  • Increased Employee Engagement – When your employees feel like they are heard and that their opinions are valid and respected, they’ll be more motivated and productive.

How Business Consulting Can Help

A business consulting agency that focuses on lean transformation can work with you to take the necessary steps towards a faster, more efficient business. Part of that process is focusing on leadership development. A good business consulting agency can work directly with leaders to improve soft skills such as active listening. 

At Lilly Consulting Group, we provide business consulting services to help companies transform operations, overcome challenges, and solve inefficiencies in order to meet our client’s business goals. Contact us today to discuss how our team can help develop leadership skills across your organization.

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