Being a good business leader requires being a master in communicating
It’s imperative only natural to seek to engage your employees so they’re motivated to do their best work. So you spend the entire day talking to them — one-on-one sessions, team meetings, large-group conferences. Most of the time, you’re in front of the people who work for you.
But if you really look at whom you spend time with, you’d realise that you’re physically present to only a small fraction of employees. Most of the time, your team only experiences you sharing a few random thoughts before you take off to another meeting.
The first thing you need to learn is how to listen actively.
Great leaders are aware that meetings with employees should not happen by accident. You need to establish a reliable communication plan which aims to encourage interaction.
Different leaders have different technical, leadership, and interpersonal strengths. No employee expects the leader to be perfect. What they do expect is for their leader to listen to them. They will be more willing to work with somebody who’s flawed or lacks skills, as long as they know they can have a conversation — and be heard.
The ability to engage, share feedback, and walk away feeling like their leader listened— even if they ultimately didn’t get what they wanted in the request — is essential in effective leadership.
So if you want to boost your team’s motivation to work hard in achieving your personal and business whys, you should first focus on improving your listening skills. Through this single improvement, you’ll start to learn about specific aspects of the business that need to be addressed. If your business is struggling to take off and you want to fix the problem, you simply won’t know where to start without this first critical step of learning how to listen to your people.
Set aside time and space for listening
If you’re too busy to meet with employees, no one will have the chance to speak up. Like a professor having ‘office hours,’ a leader could have an hour or two dedicated solely to listening to what employees have to say. Make this a part of your daily routine. It doesn’t have to always be a formal meeting. Sometimes you just need to show up and walk around. These informal ‘sightings’ — having lunch with a few people in the cafeteria, touring a new facility — are very valuable for demonstrating that you’re in touch with what’s happening.
To listen is to be fully present
When it’s time for your employees to speak up, drop everything and listen. Give them your full, undivided attention. This doesn’t only apply to face-to-face meetings. Even when communicating to your team through phone or email, allow yourself to be fully committed to absorbing what they have to say.
Listen now, respond later
Make some interactions simply about hearing the other person without saying anything in response. This helps you avoid coming off as defensive or rushing to a solution that may or may not work. Even though their sentiments may sometimes be unreasonable or illogical, you don’t necessarily have to dismiss their opinions on the spot. Take time to digest their words and try to see where they’re coming from so you can better assess how to respond and react.
To let them know you were actually listening, give a summary
Make sure you understood your employee by repeating back. This reflective strategy gives them a chance to confirm or make any corrections. Understand that no one is perfect in articulating their issues. Everyone needs an opportunity to be heard on multiple occasions as their own beliefs and interpretations evolve. Listening isn’t a one and done event. Allow employees to change their minds or clarify any misunderstandings.
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