It was a challenging interaction with a client this week. I have been working with them for years in helping them develop their leadership pipeline and something felt off. Maybe it had to do with their new HR Director or the overwhelming workload that their leaders were facing daily. Getting a handle on what wasn’t matching up or causing friction made me take pause.
The questions swirled through my mind:
Why were the leaders feeling so stressed?
Why was learning new leadership skills not a priority?
What was going on in the minds of the senior leaders?
How would they ever reverse their enormous turnover rate if they didn’t find time to develop their team members?
It was clear that taking care of external customers was the only thing that mattered and yet the HR Director knew that leadership development was key to the organization’s success. It was time for some major listening to hear what was behind this dilemma. There was no way I was going to get to the bottom of the issue without a deep listening dive.
Six Leadership Building Blocks To Extraordinary Listening
1. Create A Foundation of Trust
Working with a new HR Director meant developing a connection where she would see me as her advocate and support. I didn’t have a lot of time to build that relationship but knew without her trust I wouldn’t be believable. One way to cultivate a connection with people we work and serve is to get personal. Find out something about their family or a difficulty they are facing. Then share something about your background. These touch points are important building blocks to developing rapport.
2. Commit To Listening Deeply
For leaders to get to the real concerns of others they must listen to hear the truth. This is not always easy when we want to jump in with our thoughts. To listen deeply:
- Open your ears wide and close your mouth.
- Do not interrupt or you may not get the full picture.
- Try to stay focused on what is being discussed rather than the point you may want to make.
- Keep reminding yourself this in not the time to speak.
3. Ask Relevant and Empowering Questions
Once a person is finished with sharing their thoughts it is time for a leader to begin asking relevant questions. Relevant doesn’t include things from the past but rather questions on how we can help someone. Try to avoid “why” questions because they often sound judgy. Use positive language and words that are supportive and not overly critical. After all, the goal here is to discover how we can best serve or support someone.
Related: 6 Shifts to Persuasive Leadership
4. Restate, Reframe, Recognize
It is critical that we hear what is being said to us in order to avoid any misunderstanding. A great building block to do this is to:
- Restate the information being shared in your own words. Using our own language helps leaders to come to the same understanding as the other person.
- Reframe the message in a way to make it sound familiar and more approachable to resolve. This step can often mean the difference between being helpful or missing the mark.
- Recognize the next steps by speaking them out loud. This way you and the other individual know exactly what is expected.
5. Be As Flexible As Possible
Whenever possible lead by being adaptable to the needs of others. When leaders respond to team members and customers with ways they can be flexible relationships thrive. I needed to make several timeframe and material adjustments with the HR Director but was well worth the effort. I heard her real issues.
6. Show Confidence To Meet Customer Needs
To display extraordinary listening leaders must show confidence in the person they are working with as well as in themselves. We need to delight our customers and acknowledge our important work in helping them.
- Say thank you to your customers for being open and sharing their concerns.
- Explain how you will make adjustments with pleasure.
- Remind your customers how important they are to you and how much you appreciate their relationship.
What other building blocks have you used to become an extraordinary listener?
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