The Art of Listening

By David Green

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

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Leadership is tough. There is no doubt about it. With the ever-changing business environment, we all work in coupled with the changing needs of people, leading a team or business isn’t getting any easier. It is hard enough when everything is going well, let alone when things go wrong.

That’s why there is no better time than the present to make sure you are getting the basics right and have a solid leadership foundation to help support your team and business.

This article will explore three key tips that can help you build a stronger and more resilient team focusing on one core pillar of leadership: listening.

1. Do the Rounds

This is one of the simplest things you can do that can have a great impact.

Every day at around the same time, walk the floor and say hello to everyone.

Next, listen to everything everyone says. If someone is normally ‘good’ every day, and then one day they are ‘OK’, that could be a red flag. Once you get a red flag, act on it. That can be as simple as asking if they want to go for a coffee or simply asking if they’re doing well.

If someone follows a certain sports team, remember. Check how they went on the weekend, and bring it up in your Monday rounds. Showing you care and listening can be as simple as showing you remember.

People love structure, so it is important to do it at the same time every day. You choose the time. And it doesn’t have to be at exactly the same time (3 pm vs. 3:10 pm won’t change the world). However, it must be as structured as possible.

Bringing this into your daily rhythm will help you have a better understanding of your team’s pulse and help identify changes quickly. Plus, simple moments showing memory can have a great impact on your perceived level of humility.

This is especially important if you work in an office environment and have your own office. No one likes a boss that turns up, locks themselves away all day, and then disappears.

It comes as no surprise that action is the true measure of a good listener. Smile and nod all you like. But unless you have the rigor and structure in place, nothing you do will have an effective impact on your team.

2. Language When Delivering a Message

Language is everything. No matter how good a message may be, if it is delivered without the right language, it can be wasted. Not to mention a bad one. This isn’t just about the ‘me’ to ‘we’. It is about thinking and considering the impact of your words on your people.

When delivering a message, there are a few key things to consider, irrespective of whether the message is written or verbal.

  • Don’t Waffle: No one likes a waffler. Keep it concise, and don’t dilute the message. If you find you are adding padding around your words, just delete them. Avoid wishy-washy delivery. Make sure your message is specific and clear. Think ‘it should’ vs. ‘it will’.
  • It’s OK to Not Know: In a lot of situations, you won’t have all the answers. That is okay! Just don’t let yourself fall into the trap of trying to know or, worse, insinuating you know. If there is something that is unknown, just call it out as it is. Your team doesn’t expect you to have all the answers. But they expect you to be honest with them. If your message is factually questionable, then the whole message is lost.
  • Get Someone to Read Your Message: A good practice is to get someone you trust to read an email or message before you deliver it. Ask for their opinion without them having any context. This way, you will get a candid opinion, and it will help you tailor accordingly. If it is a verbal message, writing it down before delivering will help you remember and tweak the language to suit your audience and message.

3. Do What You Say You’re Going to Do

This one should be easy. However, it is too often neglected. All you need to do is do exactly what you say you are going to do.

We aren’t talking about doubling sales or paying everyone a fortune. We are talking about the basics.

A great example is the one-and-one smoke bomb. If you have a weekly one-on-one with a direct report, be there on time because here is what happens if you don’t:

  • Postponing = Not that important
  • Moving = Something else is more important
  • Being late = I’m here. But I don’t really care
  • Canceling = I am important, you know
  • Not showing up at all = Who are you again?

We sometimes understand something will come up, especially personally. But if you must postpone once in a blue moon, the other person won’t mind at all because it will be unusual, not usual.

This goes for everything from getting a coffee to having a one-on-one to a team meeting.

A Good Listener

So it goes without saying these tips are not quick fixes. For any of them to be truly impactful, you must implement them and continue to practice them to see the benefits.

How Can Leaders Improve Their Listening?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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David Green
David Green
David Green is a passionate people leader with a love for Finance and Insurance. An Entrepreneur at heart, he owns and runs his own Professional Indemnity Insurance Company. When he isn’t running his own business or helping others improve theirs he is often found snowboarding the slopes of the Australian Snowy Mountains.
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