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VIEWPOINT: Listening 101

“Effective listening is one of the most important skills leaders need to have.”

Every good conversation starts with listening. Steven Covey says that most people do not listening but rather to reply.

Which one are you, and which one do you want to be?
The popularity of social media today is teaching us that people like to be heard. The same applies for employees and customers. Owing to technology, the world is more informed than ever before and it is therefore even more critical to really listen.
Effective listening is one of the most important skills strong leaders need to have.
However, studies by the International Listening Association indicated that fewer than 2% of professionals get training to improve this vital skill. There is no business school that teaches listening and there are few courses available to companies to develop this.
What are the benefits of listening? Research shows that good listening is the key to developing fresh insights and ideas that fuel success. Also, effective listening opens doors to new opportunities, increases revenue, improves customer service, and boosts employee productivity.

Use these three strategies to become a great listener:
• Be people focused: Be respectful of others’ unique value and input. Let them know they are important and that you really want to listen to them. Be a sounding board. Smart people can find their own solutions, but sometimes need that sounding board to vent and perform their own self-check before re- finding the path to productivity. Validate what you hear. Be patient because you are working with people. Even rock stars need encouragement.
• Listen more than you talk: Apply the 80/20 rule (listen 80%, talk 20%). You will be surprised at how differently you interpret what you hear.
• Clarify: Good listeners seek to understand what lies below the surface of every conversation. Clarify what you hear and what you understand. This might also mean that you have to challenge assumptions or the norm. Remember, listening is not about agreeing. And by asking questions you get answers. It’s about conversation.

Some of the greatest ideas today came from people who really listened, understood and then found solutions. What matters is that you are attentive and engaged and that the other person feels that they are heard.
Good luck and I challenge you to really listen, understand and be heard. ❐

Author: Stanford Payne CA(SA) is an ICF Accredited Executive and Business Coach