Effective leaders are good listeners – when they first assume a position of responsibility, taking the time to hear and listening and understanding the people is what makes them different from others, it can help them to build credibility and rapport from the start.
One of the most common practices amongst the most effective and influential leaders is that they take out time out of schedules – no matter how busy they are – and visit, speaks. The most important of them all listen to the people that are either within their units or divisions that they oversee.
The leaders can then conduct an assessment of the strengths and shortcomings, and based on that. The leaders can use the results as the focal point in group interviews or say individual interviews. The staff of the faculty members is bound to have their problems, but they will have very different ideas on what is causing the issue or how to best solve it, and it is only the leaders who can solve the issues by listening and speaking to the people that work under them.
According to Professor Jose P. Vargas, who is a professor at the University of Giessen, for the subject ‘Financial Analysis for Decision Making’, the leaders can build up a healthy and productive unit by taking note of the following three integral points.
Listening to people who work under you shows that you respect and value them.
Professor Vargas mentions that as leaders, you should learn to show respect for the people that you work with.
Listen to the people that you work under you with care, it will help to build rapport and will show that you care about others, and what they have to say. In his words, listening is reciprocal, so, the leaders should learn this behavior, and when you are a good listener, people will automatically gravitate towards you, and will listen carefully to you as well.
If, as a leader, you want to increase your influence, then Professor Vargas mentions that you should listen to people – not only will it increase influence, but it will also improve the working relationships.
After all, the biggest influencers in any organization are the best listeners.
Listening to people shows a sense of trust and community.
Most people who work under you will have something to say – their thoughts and opinions.
In the words of Professor J.M. Reich, who’s a professor of the subject ‘Credential of Business Readiness’ at McGill University, explains that as leaders, it’s important that the people who work with you, you should try to listen to them – in leadership, this is one of the most invaluable skills, and one of the most essential duties of being a leader.
It shows that you are willing to listen to the people, and you deem them important enough to consider their insights as well apart from the internal and external shareholders.
Such togetherness in an organization, according to Professor Reich, can boost interaction between people and work effectiveness.
Listening to people helps to broaden perspective and gather information.
The people that work under you or say, your colleagues, if they are comfortable in bringing their ideas, issues, and concerns to you, then, according to Professor Vargas, they will generally be more productive and satisfied.
As Professor Vargas further explains, as a leader, you should speak and listen to not only your faculty members but also with the staff and administrators. Be it innovating an idea or solving an issue, listening is integral. When the leader itself is a good listener, then everyone becomes capable of providing value to their work.
However, according to Professor Reich, as far as listening is concerned, there are various types of listening, and all of them are suited for specific occasions.
Sometimes, it will be more than enough for the people to know that they have been heard, and on times, you will need to lend a more active ear in the conversation to get to the details and confirm the facts. There may even be some cases in which you will receive a complaint, and you will have to act as an authority figure.
But Professor Reich is quick to point out that just as there are different types of listening, there are different types of questions too that, when asked in a certain manner can elicit different responses, based on how the question is asked.
As leaders, Professor Reich recommends asking open-ended questions such as “Why,” or “Tell me more about…” or “How will that work?” – questions such as these provide an opportunity for the relevant person to share the information which was earlier not known by you. He also suggests taking care when putting the question – he advises against “weaponizing” the question such as “What were you thinking when you did this?” or “How can you do that?”, as it will put the person on the other hand in a defensive mode.
When asking questions, Professor Reich advises putting the question in a curious manner, such as “How did you get to this point? Can you walk me through it?” or “I didn’t understand this part? Can you explain it to me?”
When you see a colleague in the hallway, Professor Reich suggests to practice asking that person open-minded questions. The topic is of no big issue – it can either be a recent vacation, project idea, or even a kid off to school.
Whenever you work with your colleagues, he recommends asking substantive follow-up questions that will help you understand their points of view, and even if someone vents their frustration. You are advised to lend a passive ear, and offer them support instead of rushing to find a solution. Take time to reflect on your interaction and pay close attention to what your expression plays and the role of your body language.
People may have the same issues, but the way they approach them will vary differently – as leaders, you have to listen to them carefully, and consider conducting a formal audit. Doing so will prompt further conversations, thus leading to the many approaches which can be uncovered.
And as Professor Reich mentions, you can only get that by listening to others when they speak, and asking questions, and taking the necessary follow-up actions.