Seven ways to be a leader that listens

Seven ways to be a leader that listens

By Jose Ruiz

Jose Ruiz serves as Alder Koten’s Chief Executive Officer providing vision, strategic direction and the roadmap for the firm’s future. He is also involved in executive search work focused on board members, CEOs and senior-level executives; and consulting engagements related to leadership and organizational effectiveness helping clients create thriving cultures.

Seven ways to be a leader that listens

Listening is a must-have skill for anyone, especially a leader. Many studies find that great leaders spend more than 50 percent of their time listening to others. After all, communications occur both ways and listening is an important component to get our messages across and to provide solutions.

However, due to being constantly online through various gadgets and social media accounts, listening has become a forgotten skill. Even most business and university-level classes revolve around reading comprehension, presenting ideas publicly, and writing analytical papers.

There is a high correlation between listening and success as well. A study revealed that managers who conducted Q and A sessions with their team members were likely to be more successful. The sessions provided valuable opportunities to better understand the issues and to retain information that would be helpful in providing solutions.

Considering its importance, leaders are highly recommended to proactively relearn how to listen well. Good listening is also known as “active listening” or “proactive listening,” where the listener practices awareness, patience, empathy, selflessness, and reflectiveness. This would require honesty and self-reflection, which are key to understand your listening style.

Once you have acknowledged your weaknesses, you will become more open to improvements.

First of all, recognize your level of listening awareness.

Pay close attention to yourself every time you are conversing with someone. Are you paying attention to him or her? Are you keep checking your mobile for new text messages, emails, tweets, or statuses? Are you keeping eye contact? Are you showing disinterest, like sighing or checking the time repeatedly?

Second, remove external distractions (environment).

In a busy and noisy environment, no one can listen well. It is simply impossible and easy to recognize. Whenever the noise and privacy level of the environment changes, find a more quiet place. Removing physical distractions is crucial for a good listening session to occur.

Third, remove internal distractions (yourself and your ideas).

Stay open minded and keep your mind clear from the clutter of concocted ideas. Sometimes, whenever the information you hear strikes a certain fancy in yourself, you may feel compelled to respond right away, as if your ideas were the only true and correct ones. Be aware whenever this happens. Better yet, be aware before it happens by keeping your mouth shut and not allowing your mind to play tricks on your speech.

Fourth, empathize with others and be patient.

Listen attentively to others. See the world from their eyes as if you were walking in their shoes. This way, you would be able to feel the way they feel and think the way they feel. When their ideas are properly noted mentally or jotted down on a piece of paper, your patience will eventually be paid off, as your execution will be based on accurate observation.

Fifth, remove your urge to be “listened to.”

Too many people act as if they were listening to others while they were waiting for their turn to speak. It is a selfish act that should be gradually eliminated. When you are listening to others, it is your time to truly give them the opportunity to speak and be listened to. Be selfless.

Sixth, repeat and paraphrase.

Show that you truly listened by repeating and paraphrasing what was being said earlier. Strategically repeating and paraphrasing  would make you look and sound sincere and attentive. Include your ideas when doing it, so two-way communication truly occurs, and both parties would gain something useful and meaningful.

Seventh, reflect to execute.

Brian Tracy called it “courageous patience.” It is the moment that follows a conversation when you do not know for sure whether the ideas being communicated would work. Don’t worry. Reflect on the conversation and refer to the mental and written notes for assurance of what you should be executing next. Stay patience and allow momentum to move it forward.

In conclusion, a good leader is someone who listens actively and executes ideas being communicated with patience, open-mindedness, and selflessness. Active listening is an extremely valuable skill that everyone should brush up from time to time. Last but not least, a great leader is a good listener.

About Alder Koten

Alder Koten helps shape organizations through a combination of research, executive search, cultural & leadership assessment, and other talent advisory services. The firm was founded in 2011 and currently, includes 6 partners and over 28 consultants in 4 cities. The firm’s headquarters are located in Houston and it has offices in Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City with partner firms in New York, Boston, Chicago, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and United Kingdom. We know where to find the executives you need and how to attract top talent to your organization. Our approach to executive search is based on a thorough understanding of the strategic, cultural, financial and operational issues our clients face. Our executive search engagements are targeted and focused on the specific requirements of the position including industry and functional experience, skills, competencies, cultural fit, and leadership style. Our process is rigorous. We take a disciplined and structured approach to identifying potential candidates that meet the position requirements including subject-matter, functional and regional expertise. We use our high-level professional networks, industry knowledge, and internal research resources to achieve results in every executive search engagement.This is a text block. Click the edit button to change this text.

Jose Ruiz is also involved in executive search work focused on board members, CEOs and senior-level executives; and consulting engagements related to leadership and organizational effectiveness helping clients create thriving cultures.