June 13, 2024

Listening is The BEST SKILL You Can Develop As a Leader

Here’s how to level up your listening skills and become a better leader.

Have you ever stopped in the middle of a conversation and thought, wait a minute, this person isn’t even listening?

It’s a frustrating feeling.

The reality is that most of the time, people really aren’t listening. Despite what you may think, it’s not enough to just sit back and let noise flow into your ears. 

The art of listening lies in two things:

  1. Paying attention
  2. Doing something meaningful with what you’ve been told

So what does this have to do with leadership?

When we think of the greatest leaders, we often think of profound public speakers—leaders who inspire, command, and tell others what to do. 

But more important than all of these traits, is the ability to listen.

As a leader, you are responsible for the people on your team. Their problems are your problems. Showing up for them requires stepping into their world, seeing their thought process, and understanding the problems that they may be encountering.

Listening is the gateway to all of these insights.

The better you understand a person, the more effectively you can lead them. 

By listening to them first, you can align the team’s goals with their personal aspirations. 

You can offer solutions to problems they might be anxious about before you set them to a task. 

You might even uncover untapped strengths or gifts that they have, just through conversation.

Ideas don’t have to all come from the mind of the leader. On the contrary, the best innovations typically come from collaborative discussion. Your job as a leader is to facilitate as many conversations as possible, acting as a moderator while your team presents, adapts, and perfects ideas. 

Active listening will help you better understand the collective vision, while also bringing forth the tough questions that will strengthen the idea. That’s why getting every brain in the game and encouraging candor in our meetings are two of Cydcor’s core values!

There’s also a massive interpersonal benefit here, too. Active listening is a difficult skill to master, so many people just aren’t used to being listened to. Because of this, the feeling of being heard is one of the best gifts you can give to someone. 

So how do we become better listeners? Here are three pieces of advice.

1. Don’t Overdo It

Active listening is more than just a performance!

A common piece of advice on this topic is to “show that you’re listening.”

You’ve probably been told to nod your head, make small noises (like uh huh, yeah, and even the occasional wow!), and smile. 

There was a time when this wasn’t terrible advice, but doing these alone is far from active listening.

These signals tend to be overused by people who are merely pretending to pay attention. The speaker may feel like they’re getting the right feedback from the listener, but something is a little off. 

If these come naturally to you, then they’re great ways to show you’re listening. If you’re someone who likes to smile, smile. If you naturally nod your head when listening, let it happen. 

Just don’t force it. The person wants to talk to you, not a bobblehead doll.

There’s a better way to “show” that you’re listening:

Ask good questions.

2. Ask Good Questions

Nothing makes others feel heard like a good question.
Nothing makes others feel heard like a good question.

Conversations are often two people fighting over their turn to talk. Asking a follow-up question or trying to dive deeper into what’s just been said is a great way to show that you’re here just to listen.

Sometimes, you may be at a loss for how to keep the conversation going, but asking good follow ups is a skill that you can develop.

Don’t try to do too much. Simply asking for the “why” behind what’s been said, or asking how they came up with that particular idea goes a long way. 

It can be uncomfortable at first, but you should (especially as a leader) learn how to ask tough or critical questions. This is not to be mean, or to shoot the speakers idea down. Instead, a difficult question—framed the right way—can make their idea stronger.

People—suprisingly—like being asked tough questions. They see that you’re not just telling them what they want to hear. They learn that you care enough about their success to challenge them.

Active listening takes thought—and if you’re thinking critically about what’s being said, you’re taking it to a whole new level. 

3. Take Notes

Want to listen better? Write it down!
Want to listen better? Write it down!

Ok, this one is situational. 

If you run into someone in the hallway and strike up a quick conversation, it would be a bit odd to whip out your notepad. But in situations like meeting, a notepad is a great listening tool.

Taking the time to write down what’s being said affirms how you value the speaker. What’s being said isn’t just useful in the moment, it’s worth saving for later.

When it comes time for questions, you’ll be able to reference the specific language that the speaker used and dig into things that you otherwise might have lost as the discussion went on.

The act of writing something has a positive impact on memory and learning—and even if you forget, you still have the notes!

This means you’ll be able to reference what’s been said, long after the meeting is over. When you apply this, the speaker’s words have long-term impact. Talk about a confidence boost!

As children, we were all told that we have “two ears and one mouth for a reason.” It’s more than a corny platitude, it’s the formula for great leadership.

As a challenge, strike up a conversation with someone you don’t talk to often. Try to get them to do as much of the talking as possible—and see what you can learn from them and the experience.

Keep doing that—and you’ll master this amazing leadership skill in no time!

To find out more about Cydcor, check us out on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

We are Cydcor, a recognized leader in outsourced sales and marketing services located in Agoura Hills, California. From our humble beginnings as an independent sales company to garnering a reputation for consistently exceeding client expectations and driving outstanding revenue growth, Cydcor has been helping Fortune 500 and emerging companies achieve their customer acquisition, retention, and business goals since 1994. Cydcor takes pride in the unique combination of in-person sales, call center, and digital marketing services we offer to provide our clients with proven sales and marketing strategies that get results.