Strategies for Becoming a Better Listener

In a previous post, we discussed the importance of listening as a core leadership skill. In short, we wrote, leaders need to learn to listen more and speak less.


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As part of that discussion, Leadership Consultant John Maxwell recently shared his own experience as a new leader. Eventually, he realized that he was doing most of the talking and that not listening enough was having very real and negative impact on his leadership and his team. As a result, Maxwell implemented multiple strategies to help him become and remain a better leader. Here, we’ll review those strategies.

Remind Yourself to Listen Well Every Day

Maxwell says that when he had one-on-ones or group meetings, he would take notes on a legal pad with a large “L” written on the top as a reminder to listen. Whatever your helpful prompt might be, find a way to remind yourself every day of the importance of listening.

Stop Interrupting

“When you interrupt another person, you’re effectively saying, ‘What I want to say is more important than what you want to say’,” says Maxwell. “It may be unintentional, but when you devalue or invalidate the ideas of others because you’re too busy interrupting the train of thought with your own, you create a disconnect.”

Start Asking Questions

Sometimes passively listening isn’t enough to get the input you need or that people might want to provide but are unsure of themselves. Asking questions gets people to start talking and to elaborate and clarify what they’re saying.

Invite People to Hold You Accountable for Listening

Finally, if you’re truly committed to becoming a better listener, let your team know. Ask them to hold you accountable and to let you know if you aren’t listening well enough.
As a leader, it’s easy to think of yourself as “the person in charge” and, consequently, the one who should be doing all the talking and making the decisions. Well, a leader is the one in charge and does need to make the decisions, but those decisions should be based, to the extent possible, on input from the rest of the team. Any leader can benefit from this important lesson and work on speaking less and listening more.