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Leaders: Are you Listening?

I once had a partner announce to the entire management group that I had “grossly oversimplified” things when I defined a firm-wide problem as one of communication. I was younger then, and doubted myself for a minute or two. Now I’m pretty confident in saying that most of the leadership problems I run into with my clients have communication at their root.

If you are a leader or want to become one, it pays to hone your listening skills. You might think you’re pretty good at listening already, but you can always improve. Specifically:

  1. Stop talking. You can’t talk and listen at the same time.
  2. Exist in that moment with the person who is speaking. Forget everything else to the best of your ability.
  3. Don’t do anything ancillary when you are listening to someone. Don’t answer emails, don’t shuffle paper, and don’t – for heaven’s sake – take a phone call.
  4. Look people directly in the eye when you are listening.
  5. Connect your next statement to something they just said to you. Don’t move to a different topic or cling to an older topic that your partner-in-conversation has already left.
  6. Ask questions of the person so he or she will know you are engaged in the topic.

There is no doubt in my mind that if you do these things well, your communication style will improve. When your communication improves, people feel more comfortable around you and they may consequently trust you more. If you combine strategic and management skill with powerful communication ability, you will be accepted and followed as a true leader.

© Melinda Guillemette 2009