June 19

What’s the secret to dramatically boosting your leadership effectiveness?

The answer might surprise you.

Curious to know the AI’s answer? ChatGPT reveals: “One way to dramatically increase your leadership effectiveness is to practice active listening. This not only enhances your leadership skills but also fosters personal growth. Active listening involves fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and remembering what the other person is saying.”

Wow! Before I searched, I thought improving listening effectiveness was the most actionable and, perhaps, one of the most leverageable skills I could think of! Either AI is getting really smart, or I’m getting smarter…

Have you ever had the experience of working with a really poor listener? Most of us have. It can be incredibly difficult and frustrating. I find that poor listeners often have other problems that are related – ‘me syndrome’ or some form of narcissism, for example. They enjoy being the smartest person in the room and, due to their low self-awareness, attempt to impress others by overtalking and not listening to those around them.

Some extroverts fall into the trap of poor listening because of their habits. They love to talk and are used to doing most of the talking. They tell others everything before they ask them anything. When a person does all the talking, they can’t do the listening. If an extrovert doesn’t ask questions and doesn’t try to ‘land the plane’, they can exhaust the listener. We all have short attention spans, and if the talker goes on and on, the listener eventually gives up and reduces their attention toward trying to understand the speaker.

Introverts, by nature, are listen-first people. They will ask questions to stay in their comfort zone, but their challenge is they don’t always engage fully because they may not want to share something or make a statement.

It takes two listeners to have great dialogue—two people who are sensitive to how much talking and listening they are doing. If both parties regulate themselves and do not dominate the conversation, they create a foundation for great communication. This balance empowers you to steer the discussion effectively.

If you find yourself lagging as a great listener, the following are some areas you should investigate:

  1. Do you have some bad habits you are unaware of?
    • Ask others for feedback – become aware of what you do and don’t do.
  2. Do you prefer to talk or are used to being the first person to speak?
    • Rewind the tapes of your meetings. Analyze how much talk time you had.
    • Notice how well you listened.
    • Did others feel completely heard and understood by you?
  3. You can hardly wait for your turn to talk. It’s hard to hold yourself back; while the other person is saying something, you are thinking about what you want to say.
    • Slow down. Trust you won’t forget what popped into your mind while listening.
    • Sometimes, (often) it’s better to forego the experience that you must share. Instead, ask the speaker a question. If you try to share that the same thing happened to you every time, it makes others feel your stories and experiences are more important. Are you trying to ‘one-up’ the other person?
  4. You pretend to listen but are not interested in what the other person is saying. Even though you may not be saying anything verbally, your nonverbals are saying more than you think. The speaker probably can feel your energy and that you aren’t interested.
    • Take a deep breath. Try focusing 100 percent on what the other person is saying.

 What’s a leader to do?

  1. Sell out to becoming a great listener. There is no greater gift you can give another person than fully listening to them and understanding them beyond the words they are using.
  2. Practice makes perfect. Start a spreadsheet or a journal to track your conversations and the quality of your listening. The more aware you are, the more you can change your habits. Maintain eye contact. Avoid interrupting. Paraphrase. Ask curious questions. Use silence. Let your nonverbals encourage them to keep talking.
  3. Take control of your mind. If your mind is saying, oh, I have to tell this story… you will stop listening. Instead, tell your mind that you are going to paraphrase or summarize what they are saying, you won’t interrupt, and you won’t launch into a story as soon as their last words leave their lips.

Superb listening separates you as a leader because it:

  • Builds Trust and Respect
  • Improves Communication Effectiveness
  • Encourages Collaboration
  • Enhances Problem-Solving & Decision Making
  • Demonstrates Empathy

By incorporating active listening into your leadership habits, you can dramatically improve your effectiveness as a leader.

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