While we all know that active listening skills are critical to helping you be a good leader, the phrase active listening is often misunderstood by managers and leaders. To help you out, we’re going to discover what active listening is and why listening is so critical for business leaders today. No matter what type of business you work in, you’ll find you can apply these tips every day when working alongside your employees and colleagues.
What is Active Listening?
When it comes to the difference between various listening skills, active listening skills are something that takes patience and time to develop. Active listening focuses on what the speaker is saying, as opposed to just hearing what they are saying. That’s a big difference. Focusing on meaning and intent, not just hearing specific phrases or buzz words. A good listener will listen with all five of their senses. They’ll show that they are fully engaged with the speaker so that they continue to share their thoughts and feelings. They will suspend their own bias and perspective and engage with curiosity to explore what the other person means.
Both verbal and non-verbal communication can be used to showcase active listening skills. You could nod your head in agreement, make eye contact, and verbally agree as they are speaking. This feedback makes the speaker feel more confident and secure about sharing their feelings with you.
What Does Active Listening Look Like?
Active listening encourages the listener to understand every word that is shared with them fully. By reflecting on what’s being said and asking questions to clarify anything you are unsure about, you’ll be far more engaged with the subject. Even if you don’t agree with what’s being said, active listening is a great way to understand someone else’s point of view. While we sometimes have to agree to disagree, you’ll find that your employees will have far more respect for you when you take the time to truly hear what they have to say.
A good way to showcase active listening skills is to ask questions to show engagement, focus, and attention. Orchestrators also find they can get more details from team members and employees in this way, fostering better relationships over time
Skill 1: Don’t talk, listen
Allow each speaker to share what they are trying to say. Be patient. Many times, people will struggle to put words to what is happening. Do not interrupt or work on your responses until others finish speaking. Take notes. Draw out pictures of what you believe they are saying. Ask questions if you are unclear.
Skill 2: Put the speaker first
Prepare yourself to listen and receive. Relax and give the speaker your undivided attention. Maintain eye contact, lean in, and encourage them. Think of it as playing tennis. Active listening means listening for the emotions of the other people who are speaking. Seek to understand how they feel by asking open-ended questions.
Skill 3: Focus, Empathize
Give your complete attention to the person speaking. If it helps, explain to the other person that you are taking notes. Sometimes it is helpful to draw what is being heard. Be intentional about avoiding distractions like looking out of the window, or getting distracted from what is being said. Put yourself in the speaker’s shoes; they may be overcome by nervousness or be ill-prepared. To do that, you may consciously choose to keep your biases in check. Avoid asking questions that lead to where you believe you want to go. Focus instead on where the other person is. Be in the moment.
Skill 4: Look for Body Language Cues
Pay attention to the non-verbal cues given by the speaker that convey more than words. The speaker may convey their confidence or lack of confidence in a variety of different ways. In the sales environment, salespeople are taught to understand the clues of others. These clues can include hand gestures, movements, facial expressions, and even fidgeting. Focus on these to redirect your attention towards them and actively listen
Skill 5: Suspend Bias
Cogntiive bias is important in times of change and stress. Learn to engage without judgment or without justifying a specific action. This is sometimes difficult in a sales environment where people want “the answer.” But, remember that our perspectives are biased. We are all biased in our own way. Research shows there are over 150 different cognitive biases people can have when receiving information and knowledge. As an orchestrator, it’s important to develop a non-critical attitude to the other person’s words. Focus on what is being said. Communication is based on the current situation. Do not constantly live in the past.
Why Do Enablement Teams Need Active Listening Skills?
Compared to other types of listening skills, you might be wondering why it’s important to cultivate your own active listening skills. Remember, active listening is beneficial for both the speaker and the listener. For the speaker, they’ll feel far more confident speaking to you and feel like they can trust that you are listening to every word they are saying.
Active listening skills are also critical for leaders to use when an employee is confiding their trust in the leader. As an orchestrator, you can help people feel confident to share their concerns or fears when you apply your active listening skills. When you do that, it’s more likely you will find ways you can work together to identify possible solutions to overcome issues.
For the listener, active listening skills help them engage more with the subject matter. The listener will improve their memory and recall skills, as they will be far more likely to remember what was said days after the conversation. The human mind is terrible at remembering the details of most discussions, but Orchestrators will find that active listening skills can help. Enablement team members who engage with active listening skills combined with note-taking are more likely to remember what others were speaking about days later.
Why Are Active Listening Skills Important Today?
One of the biggest concerns we hear from employees in all types of organizations is that their voice isn’t heard. For employees, this can feel heavy and make people want to move on from the business to somewhere they are valued. Active listening skills can help leaders show compassion for their team and foster a better chain of communication throughout the organization. Orchestrators are cross-functional roles that can model what good communication and active listening look like.
When enablement leaders improve active listening skills, they will find their tea members are far more likely to trust them. That can make a big difference, especially in times of crisis. There’s nothing worse for a person than confiding what they are thinking, only for the other person to barely pay attention. That’s why it’s important to encourage enablement team members to work on their active listening and keep trying out the technique, like what is shared above.
There are so many benefits of active listening for both leaders and their employees. Working on your listening skills is something you should continue to do at any stage in your career. To help you engage more with your employees, active listening needs to be practiced on a regular basis. The more you use active listening in your workplace, the more trust you’ll gain from everyone you interact with. It’s a good form of listening to use in any type of conversation and will help to strengthen your understanding of conversations about any topic.
We highly encourage you to start asking more questions and showing your interest in conversations, and in no time at all, you’ll see that active listening transforms your relationships in your personal and professional life.