Why does listening well matter?
In a recent post, 4 Tips for Developing Millennial Leaders Now, it was noted that emerging leaders want to improve the way they communicate, build relationships, and develop others.
Listening is an essential communication skill that all the other leadership and civility practices depend upon. Listening well is a series of four small actions that matter when it comes to creating a respectful workplace. These small actions include:
1. Making eye contact with the other person.
2. Getting down the basic details of what the other person is saying.
3. Asking questions to gain a deeper insight into what the other person is saying.
4. Checking with the person to see if the meaning is understood.
A great way to support emerging leaders to develop these skills is to model them. Here are a few questions to assist you in assessing how well you listen.
Self-Assessment (Rate yourself as never, sometimes, or almost always)
Do I make eye contact when someone is speaking?
Do I listen for details?
Do I ask questions that help the person explain the purpose of their communication?
Do I summarize what I heard and check for understanding?
If you almost always take these small actions, you are modeling strong listening skills. A good next step to helping to develop an emerging leader would be to share this assessment with the person you are developing. They will determine where they need more awareness and practice and you can give them support and feedback.
If you sometimes take these small actions, you can improve with awareness. A way to motivate yourself is to imagine a more respectful workplace by consistently modeling the skill of listening well.
If you rated yourself as never, perhaps you really don’t want a more respectful workplace because you feel that this type of workplace would be less effective. A point of clarification is a reminder that skilled behaviors like speaking up are important for an effective workplace. Listening well is the complement to speaking up. Both skills need to be present. People who listen well naturally may not be skilled at speaking up. People who speak up naturally may not be skilled in listening.
We are curious to know about your experience with communication skills. What great resources are available?
The Seeds of Civility is a blog that is created by The Wallace Centers of Iowa. Here we gather tips for leading (and developing emerging leaders) with civility.