3 Behaviors That Can INSTANTLY Make You Better Leadership Material

Are you a master at “the nod and smile” when someone asks you a question? When someone is speaking to you, are you often thinking of what you have next on your schedule? Have you agreed to something then realized you didn’t know what the question was?

Trust me … I’ve done all of these (and I am sure much worse!).

We like to think we’re effective listeners, yet how much are we truly listening? I mean listening as if our livelihood (or our personal lives) depends on it. Because nowadays it does and it is becoming more increasingly difficult to be a great listener.

  • Never before have the roles that men & women play been so convoluted and so much at stake…
  • Never before have our communications mattered so much…
  • Never before have our relationships been so stressed.

In a survey done by Accenture with over 3,600 business professionals in over 30 countries, 96% [of people] believe they’re good listeners… and yet 98% also report to “multi-tasking” over the course of the day.

The study found that eight out of ten respondents said they multi-task on conference calls with work emails (66%), instant messaging (35%), personal emails (34%), social media (22%) and reading news or entertainment (21%). In fact, professionals report distracted listening and divided attention unless they are held directly and visibly responsible within the context of the meeting. In Accenture’s study, 64% of Millennials, 54% of Gen Xers, and 49% of Baby Boomers reported multitasking during at least half of their work day. While 66% of professionals agreed multitasking enables them to get more done at work, 36% report that distractions prevent them from doing their best work. Millennials were at the extreme on each – feeling multitasking meant getting more done (73%) and yet distractions prevented them from doing their best work (41%).

So how can you be an A+ listener and still complete your tasks with A+ efficiency? You can try, yet the reality it’s almost impossible.

In order to be a great listener something has to give, and this means making the way you communicate with others more important than your personal needs in the moment. It is especially critical as you groom yourself into even higher leadership roles. Gone are the days that you will just be promoted because you are next in line or because you work hard and put in the long hours. Today the best leaders (both in their work as well as in their personal lives), realize that they have to do the following:

Learn to ask the right questions – start the bold conversations – listen as if your life depends on it – take 100% accountability for the relationships that matter the most.

Here are 3 key behaviors that make an empathetic listener. How many of them do you practice?

1. You’re processing what’s being heard. When someone at work comes to you with a problem, do you typically listen for a solution or for the meaning? If you answered ‘solution’, you’re not listening with a truly empathetic mind. Practice going into a conversation with the purpose of processing what you hear first – i.e. listen for the meaning of what the other person is trying to convey, what are their key points, and what themes are coming up within the conversation. To be an effective listener you have to understand the meaning before you can give an appropriate solution or even begin to work towards a solution. This may feel that it takes longer than you feel it “should” yet it resolves a lot of conflict if the other party feels that they have been heard and understood.

2. You’re hearing with all of your senses. Verbal communication is important to get your point across, yet unless we receive non-verbal cues it’s hard for us to believe someone is actually listening to us. By showing you are listening with your facial expressions, tone and body language, along with paying attention to what is being said (and not multi-tasking or turning away) this sends the message you are listening and understand what they other person is attempting to convey. When someone feels heard easily, they often don’t feel the need to repeat themselves and can get to their point more quickly. This is even apparent on the phone or by email/text when a receiver can actually feel that the listener is actively listening and paying attention (and not just pretending to do so).

3. You’re responding and encouraging open and bold communication. Let’s take it back to the top … We all know “the nod and smile” can work short term, yet it really only gets you so far (that’s how we end up unconsciously agreeing to stuff we don’t consciously want to). In order to call yourself a good and active listener (a key trait of embodied leaders*), you have to be able to listen along with encouraging open and bold communication at the same time. Are you giving intelligent responses to people’s questions? Are you asking the tough questions with compassion so that you are getting to the heart of the issue? Do you ask for clarification before you jump to a conclusion? If you’re not doing these things you could be still coming off as half-listening. Half-listening is a form of multitasking or worse … It might be a form of gender stereotype bias (eg. “If she would just get to the point I can fix her problem/If he would just shut up and listen to me and give me some time to explain what I mean …”).

When you’re an effective and empathetic listener it makes you a better leader (as well as a better person!). Not only will you appear more trustworthy, you will have the ability to build better personal and professional bonds, you will have the ability to be more adaptable, and the ability to understand your team, your boss, your customers, your spouse, your partner, and even your family – i.e. all the relationships that matter the most to you!

Initiating and supporting bold conversations are one of Fiona’s greatest skills as a Coach and Communications expert. She has over 25 years in supporting individuals and organizations in having the teams, the jobs, the money and the relationships of their dreams. Fiona speaks internationally on Gender & Generational Diversity and Communications.  Contact Fiona for her offer of a complementary Strategy Call on LinkedIN or info@thebryangroup.ca

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