5 Steps to Improve Your Listening Skills & Leadership Effectiveness


It’s not an accident that the most successful leaders are also very skilled listeners. That’s because communication – both how you deliver information and how you receive it – is the key to leadership effectiveness. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, executive or management hopeful, your listening skills play a critical role in your ability to become an influential leader, persuasive closer and impactful visionary.

Here are 5 simple steps for improving your listening skills and, in turn, your leadership effectiveness.

1. Quiet the Inner Dialogue

As business leaders, we often have an overwhelming amount of responsibilities competing for our attention, and it’s all-too-common to be thinking about one thing while participating in another. Listening begins with actively working to quiet that inner dialogue.

Some find it productive to keep a small notebook on hand, so thoughts can be written down and released from “mental storage.” Others schedule 30-minute windows once or twice a day for reflective and/or strategic thought – with the goal of freeing their minds from the silent distraction of inner dialogue. Find what works best for you and be consistent with its implementation.

2. Listen to the Complete Message

We’ve all done it: a person is halfway through what they’re saying, and we stop listening because we “get it.” It’s incredibly common to find ourselves crafting responses while our conversation partners are speaking – instead of hearing what they’re actually trying to communicate. In fact, today’s culture often (mistakenly) sees that as multitasking.

When we fail to listen to a person’s entire message, we invite more misunderstandings and miscommunications. Improving your leadership effectiveness requires you to engage fully in conversations – showing respect, consideration and comprehension.

3. Use Nonverbals to Show You’re Listening

No one likes speaking with someone who doesn’t seem to be listening. In fact, dismissive communicators – those who seem to barely have heard you before launching into their own thoughts – are highly ineffective leaders. Using nonverbal cues to show that you’re listening makes the speaker comfortable, encourages a continued dialogue and helps you connect.

Positive nonverbal signals could include maintaining eye contact, leaning forward slightly, nodding to indicate agreement or approval and raising eyebrows when the speaker makes a significant point.

4. Employ Open-Ended Questions to Get More Info

Questions that encourage the speaker to share information, insights and opinions are a sign of an engaged, respectful listener. Instead of looking for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, these questions ask ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘explain’ or ‘describe’. Start becoming aware of how often you ask open-ended questions, and then actively work to increase that number.

5. Reflect Your Understanding with Paraphrasing

There’s a big difference between listening and understanding, and leadership effectiveness means showing your employees that you really absorbed what they said. Establish a habit of paraphrasing the main ideas or most important points in your responses. Instead of saying “I understand”, consider the impact of saying “I understand that you’re concerned about the upcoming deadline, and I’ll look into an extension.”

Explore More Actionable Tips for Improving Your Leadership Effectiveness

At FocalPoint Canada, we guide our clients in overcoming challenges and leveraging opportunities with proven processes and methodologies that have been used by thousands of successful businesses over the past two decades. Our FocalPoint business coaches use their expertise to teach our time-tested methods through individual coaching, group sessions, or trainings and workshops.

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