What are the most important skills that enhance leadership in these times? I absolutely believe that good communication skills are crucially important. Too often, however, we tend to think that communication is all about what we say, but listening is a very important part of good communication. From my experience, when leaders listen, employees engage. They feel valued and feel that what they have to say has value for the leader and the organisation.
In fact I talk about “active listening” which is about giving our complete attention to the person with whom we are engaging. That means we listen to understand, not just to reply, which is what many people do. They are not listening at all. They are instead preparing their answer. When we actively listen our body language also indicates we are listening. There is eye to eye contact. Our body is open, for example, and we may be leaning slightly forward. We do not have our arms folded or we are not leaning back in our chair with our hands on on head. All of these poses send a message: “I am closed to what you are saying”. We ask good open-ended questions, that encourage the person to tell us more. Closed questions are questions that just require a “yes” or “no” answer.
Our authenticity tends to shine through more strongly when we place value on listening to what our people have to say, when we genuinely communicate to them that we want to understand more clearly what is important.
Gary Ryan, from Organisations that Matter and I have set up a series of short videos which we have called Authentic Conversations. Our latest one was on the importance of listening. We believe that as leaders move to recreate their organisations as we move through these challenging COVID-19 times, listening to the ideas and opinions of their employees as to how to do that will be crucially important.
You can watch this 13 minute video – When Leaders Listen, Employees Engage – by clicking the image below.