When it comes to leadership development there are so many resources out there that it can be hard to know what to focus on. I love reading about leadership and how to develop solid healthy relationships. Developing as a leader is vital for you to survive in your work environment, your home environment and in your own personal internal world.
There is no magic pill to take to become a great leader. It takes hard work, patience, failure and learning from experience to become a great leader. The same can be said of a great marriage or relationship.
The one skill that I have kept coming back to, that makes the most difference is listening. If I had to name one skill that could make the biggest difference in any organization, family, marriage or individual it would be listening.
When the people around you truly believe you are listening to them they feel that you care and value them. That creates a place where people feel safe, trusted and valuable. When people don’t believe you are listening to them, it creates many negative emotions like fear, anger, frustration, helplessness and indifference.
Entire books have be written about listening, but I want to give you a few simple things you can do at work and home to improve your listening quickly.
- Stop trying to multitask – When you are in a meeting or someone is talking to you, stop what you are doing, turn your body to face them, look them in the eye and focus on what they are saying. When you have your computer open or are watching TV or are looking at your phone or glancing past their shoulder, you are sending a message that this is not important to you and that you aren’t interested. That immediately generates negative emotions in the other person.
- Ask Questions – When you ask questions to clarify or find out more, it communicates that you really are interested and want to understand. This helps to avoid misunderstandings and keeps you from trying to redirect, avoid or be defensive. When you are seeking to first understand before being understood you will automatically start thinking of questions to ask before you start giving your answer or your defense.
- Follow-up – When you follow up with someone or follow through on something it sends the message that you listened. Even if you cannot do what they asked, it is vital to get back with them and explain why. Simply sending a follow-up email, writing a note or sending a text are great ways to let that person know you heard them and value them. When someone tells you something or asks you for something and you never get back with them it sends the message that you don’t care and they are not important.
- Respond quickly – When someone sends you a message, whether its a text, email, phone message or direct message, respond as soon as possible. Even if you can’t give them a full answer, at least acknowledge that you got it and will be getting back to them. People communicate through messaging and so as a leader it is important to respond as quickly as you can. It sends a message that you value them. Find a good system that works for you to respond to all the messages you get everyday – No excuses just do it.
If your focus is on listening to the people around you, you will also start noticing things. You will pick up on when someone is struggling or hurting. You can even get some great new ideas. Listening will also help you be more patient, less emotional and more respected.
If you think about the people you like to be around, it’s people that listen well, they ask you questions and seem to be genuinely interested in you. Listening is something that’s ultimately done by an individual. Yet an organization or family can also have a culture that endorses and supports listening in all directions and ways.
One of the best ways you can develop yourself is to become a better listener. The cool thing is that you can start today, right now, with the next conversation you have.