Essential Leadership Skills Part 1: Listening

A lot of people talk about the importance of being able to communicate and I would not deny that this matters. One of the things that I have noticed when working in leadership teams is that there are plenty of people who can communicate in writing and speak well.

At the same time it was extremely noticeable how few leaders were great at listening. Strangely enough it is often the most senior people who seem to have the biggest challenges when it comes to listening.

Perhaps this is not as odd as you might think. Without doubt people who are in senior leadership roles are extremely talented. They are extremely driven and got to where they are because they were competitive.

The sad thing is that there are so many benefits of listening:

You get insights into what people feel about the organisation;
You get ideas on what could be improved;
You learn about the challenges people are facing;
You can demonstrate empathy or appreciation of their situation;
You learn things that you never will in any formal report or sets of data.

If you are going to be a better listener, it is important to understand the 3 levels of listening.

At level 1 people are not listening at all. Well that is not entirely true. They are listening with only one intention. To formulate their response or counter argument as to what is wrong with what you are saying or proposing. There really is no interest in understanding the other person’s perspective.

At level 2 people are listening intensely to the words or what is being said. It might just be one level higher but is a significant step forward. They really are working hard to understand what others are saying.

At level 3 people are listening not just to what is being said but also to the body language and disconnects. This is often referred to as global listening. Someone listening at this level will notice when what is being said and the way in which it is being said or the non verbal signals or out of sync.

By becoming conscious of the level that you tend to operate at you can start to change track when you find that you are struggling to make progress.

Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements helps professionals become effective leaders.