A lot of leaders struggle to listen. We may be too busy, distracted, focused on what we want to say or thinking about another issue. Yet listening is one of the most significant ways we honor and respect people we lead. When we listen, we demonstrate a sincere interest in others and their ideas and input. Through listening, we grow our team, our organization and ourselves.
To be a good listener, first clarify what the speaker is saying. Clarification verifies the speaker’s intention and reveals any suppositions that are being made. To clarify what a person is saying, succinctly restate what the speaker said beginning with the question “Is this what I hear your saying?” Another option is to ask, “Do you mean____ or ____________?” Following your reiteration, invite feedback from the speaker to verify what you have said
After clarifying the speaker’s intent, make connections from his or her thoughts to the topic being discussed. Making these connections underscores the key concepts and insights shared by the speaker while highlighting questions or possible issues to be addressed. Weaving together the speaker’s ideas and other relevant points creates intentional conversation and moves the meeting forward.
Once connections have been made, explore the ideas being suggested for potential and plausibility. The type of inquiry-based exploration enhances innovation and creative outcomes. Questions such as “If this happens, what else might happen as a result?” ‘How might we see this option another way?” and “What might someone who disagrees say?” guide the exploration. Using these open-ended questions creates an atmosphere where people can offer a multitude of answers without judgment.
When ample exploration of the topic has been made, summarize the group’s conversation and invite people to ask you clarifying questions. Patiently address any confusion or misunderstandings. Being willing to answer such questions demonstrates your fluency in the language of listening to your team.