How well you listen to the people you work for and work with is a direct indicator of your leadership potential, according to this report in the Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior. Further, good listeners are more likely to perform better at work as well as have higher levels of well-being and more fulfilling relationships professionally and personally.
There’s a catch, though: Becoming a truly effective listener takes effort. According to this article at FastCompany.com, there are four behaviors that businesspeople must practice in order to listen well enough to stand out in their day-to-day work, gain respect, and project an image of someone who can handle a bigger role.
• Maintain undivided attention and focus. With all the distractions at our desks, it is too easy to mindlessly click on an email, website, or phone text while thinking you are still entirely focused. Well, science says that simply isn’t possible. Multitasking does not allow you to be fully present, which compromises the quality of communication and the potential for progress in a conversation.
• Demonstrate empathy. Single-minded focus is necessary in order to properly see a situation from fellow professional’s perspective. Why? Because kindness and compassion do not come as naturally at work as they do with friends and family. Set ego aside, don’t be cynical as to the other person’s motives, and try to place that person’s point of view into the big picture.
• Practice self-control. You’ve probably heard it before, because it is true: Listening in order to respond is far less effective than listening mindfully and letting people offer their complete thought. When we listen for purposes of responding, we lack undivided focus and often interrupt at the first opportunity (yes, questions are an interruption). Such an approach frustrates the other person, and could even make them question your motives—something potential leaders cannot afford.
• Demonstrate inclusion. When it finally becomes your turn to speak, you must convey to the other person that you were actually listening. Make sure to incorporate their perspective, reference and react to specific things they said, and ask whether you understood them correctly.
One last bit of advice from the Fast Company article: Get feedback from one or two people who are with you during in-person meetings, virtual meetings, or phone calls, asking them to point out moments when it seemed that you didn’t listen well enough. This will help you in both group discussions and in one-on-one conversations in the future.