A highly successful sales representative recently told me that the key to his success is listening. Being a good listener, he said, has made him a valuable problem solver to his clients. By consistently leveraging his listening skills, he helps his clients uncover and identify their issues and then helps them find the appropriate (sales) solution. My friend lives by the adage that the one selling is not the one doing the talking or as Stephen R. Covey puts it, “seek first to understand and then seek to be understood” (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
The skill of listening is not only effective in the sales world, but is an essential element for leaders in today’s business environment. My business partner recently blogged on the traits and actions that make a leader truly great – those that engage their employees, build culture, spawn innovation and deliver strategic results. Implicit in the traits of great leadership that he describes is the quality of being an intuitive listener – a leader who seeks insight and learning through listening and is not afraid to act appropriately on what he has heard. Such leaders recognize that knowledge and wisdom are not gained by talking, but by listening; these are the leaders that drive strategy and foster a culture of understanding, openness, trust and respect.
Look around you; the leaders who are the most active listeners are the ones who have high performing teams – engaged, loyal, motivated and consistently producing meaningful results.
Do you want to be a better listener and leader? Here are 5 core skills that will help you:
Start with a willing, open mind – Be open to new ideas, perspectives and the “other side of the story”. Don’t make the conversation about you or your views; seek to understand. 85% of what we know we have learned through listening.
Engage and ask questions – When others share their opinions, ask questions and encourage them to elaborate and expand upon their perspectives. We generally listen at a 25% comprehension rate. Then, hold yourself accountable and follow-up on what you have learned.
Make yourself available to listen – Never be too busy to listen. Anyone, regardless of title or position, can add value if you are willing to really listen. Everyone, at some point, may need you to listen to his or her ideas or concerns, recognize their roadblocks and request your involvement.
Listen to the non-verbals – Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because someone is not saying something that they are not communicating. You may “hear” more than just what is being verbally communicated by observing actions, inactions, body language, facial expressions, etc.
Be empathetic – Empathy is a powerful display of listening; the best leaders know how to empathize and make themselves approachable to those who need attention. The exceptional leader is empathic, admits mistakes and encourages the difficult conversation.
What are you doing to be a leader who listens?
Prism Partners International can help you develop leaders in your organization by identifying and developing the skills they will need to be successful. Through our proprietary rating process and development plans, we can isolate the areas for improvement and hold the employee and their supervisor accountable to make the necessary adjustments for success.
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