Listening Is an Art, and Mastering it Will Make You a Great Leader
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Wise businesspeople and leaders listen carefully. They listen to their peers, they listen to their staffs and they listen to their friends and family.
Carefully listening is especially important during business meetings. Many managers and leaders act as though they’re listening to their teams when they’re not. Often, the words spoken in meetings fall on deaf ears.
Listening is an art, after all, and not everyone knows how to do it properly. But if you can master the art of listening, you’ll improve your leadership and business skills.
A wise business leader knows how to listen and actually hear what others are saying. Epictetus, the Greek philosopher wrote: “We have two ears and one mouth -- for a good reason.” It’s more important to listen than it is to talk most of the time. How else can you learn about what needs to be done to improve a situation? No one ever stops growing and evolving in his or her business and one of the ways to learn is by listening to others.
Ask yourself these questions: Should I be concerned with how people listen to my messages? How can I improve my listening skills? How do I know if people are truly listening to me? Am I listening to them?
A powerful listener is someone who is able to focus on what another person is saying without getting distracted with their ego or personal agenda. Being a powerful listener is critical for a leader because listening can be a powerful tool. In addition, leaders lead through conversations and a call to action. If you’re not a good listener, then there is a greater chance this won’t happen.
What do effective, powerful listeners do? Here are some examples:
- They refuse to be distracted by their own egos and personal agendas. They ask questions and then listen to the answers. Wise leaders focus on their teams, employees and peers.
- When interacting one on one, they direct all their attention and focus on the other person. They put their cell phones on “mute” and stop looking at it to see if they have any messages. They’re “present,” instead of daydreaming or thinking about who is texting them. Think about your own feelings when you’re in a conversation. Have you noticed how rewarding it is when someone listens to your ideas and thoughts? Likewise, if you focus and listen to someone, that person will feel validated and know his or her input is valuable.
I have learned that most people do not listen well. In this day when everyone carries around an smartphone or tablet, people don’t focus on each other when they’re together. Unfortunately, this holds true for businesspeople and leaders. Listening requires putting our own egos aside to listen to someone else.
A powerful listener acknowledges that the person speaking will welcome the opportunity to be heard. A wise listener and leader will validate anyone who is speaking.
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie quoted a man speaking of Sigmund Freud: "It struck me so forcibly that I shall never forget him. His eyes were mild and genial. His voice was low and kind. His gestures were few. But the attention he gave me, his appreciation of what I said, even when I said it badly, was extraordinary. You've no idea what it meant to be listened to like that."
This story about Freud shows how powerful it is to listen and give someone your full attention. You never know what kind of influence you have upon another person.
It may seem small and not that important, but some of the best leaders of our time have mastered the art of listening. The art of listening truly can take not only your leadership ability to the next level, but also your success and likability as well, all of which help to create a healthy culture and peak performance.