Active listening is a vital skill in any workplace, especially for leaders and managers, whose role has evolved from delegating tasks and organising workloads, to, additionally, coaching employees or others in their organisation to help them achieve their full potential. As a result of active listening, you can support your team and members of your organisation better, and, ultimately, lead more effectively.
Below we look briefly at what active listening is, before exploring the benefits of this empowering communication skill, a skill that all leaders should seek to develop.
Active listening is a valuable skill in which the listener makes a conscious effort to understand the speaker’s entire message. You, as the listener, do this by resisting the impulse to interject with comments or questions every time there is a silence, and also by giving clear signals that you’re listening to the speaker, so that they feel you’re hearing their message. A range of verbal and non-verbal gestures, such as nods, eye contacts, and simple utterances, make up these gestures.
In the busy environment of a workplace, it’s easy to become distracted while someone is talking, either by what’s happening around us or by our own thoughts. Active listening is about being present in the conversation and focusing on what the person is saying, and not on how we intend to respond to the other person when they finish speaking.
The benefits of active listening
Active listening is a difficult skill to master. Accomplish this, however, and you empower yourself to become more effective in your role, whether you’re a leader or an aspiring leader, or operating in another professional capacity. Below we describe six different benefits of active listening and how they can help you in the workplace.
1. Active listening builds trust and strong relationships
Trust is a major commodity that active listening can help you establish. Consider your team’s behaviours. Are they disengaging from what you’re saying instead of paying attention to you? Are they absent from work more and more? Do they seem reluctant to share information with you? Do they rely excessively on email?
These are all signs your team may not trust you. These behaviours can damage progress by fuelling resentment and lowering productivity. Your team members may not be feeling heard when they speak to you, in which case learning to listen actively creates the opportunity to re-establish trust and form healthier working relationships with your team.
2. Active listening can help you to resolve conflict
You can be sure of conflict in your workplace. People will misunderstand each other or hold different points of view. Active listening is crucial in these circumstances because often, we only see issues from our own perspective. Sometimes, we become so deeply entrenched in our own position that we don’t even think about it from the other person’s (or persons’) perspective.
Active listening encourages us to see issues from different viewpoints, recognise other people’s feelings, and, generally, appreciate them. Think back to a time in which you disagreed with a colleague, or you witnessed a conflict between two colleagues, in the workplace. Did you see the issue from their perspective? Was this what created the misunderstanding? Active listening forms a basis to hear the other person’s message and move forward towards a resolution. It also fosters a culture of respect in the workplace.
3. Active listening prevents you from missing important information
The focus of active listening on hearing the whole message means you’re engaged on a higher level with the speaker, which allows you to absorb more specific details from the interaction. If you’re receiving instructions or training, you’ll be able to recall the details more easily.
As a leader, you’re likely to have to train others and convey messages to others, so it’s important to remember details because others will be acting upon your words. If you’ve missed part of the original message, the recipients of your message will only hear parts of the original message, too. This could lead to misunderstandings and impact productivity, the quality of task execution or that of products themselves.
4. Active listening enables you to identify or anticipate problems
Active listening entails seeking clarification to ensure you correctly understand the speaker’s message. This creates the opportunity to gauge whether a problem exists, or whether what they’re telling you is a sign that a problem could surface, and devise a strategy to address the issue.
Importantly, you’re allowing yourself to develop an entire sense of the problem and evaluate all the different aspects, based on the details you hear. This can help you to discover a potentially underlying problem and tackle an issue at its very root, instead of merely curing symptoms and then seeing the problem re-emerge later.
5. Active listening helps you to build more knowledge
Leaders should always embrace learning, and active listening is a powerful skill that supports learning so you can carry your organisation forward. Focusing more intensely makes it possible to assimilate information and understand different topics better, and to then remember more details from what you’ve learnt.
Active listening is exceptionally useful when you’re planning a strategy or organisational change. This could mean applying what you’ve learned to steer your organisation in a new direction or pursue innovation. When updating yourself on industry trends, you’ll be able to take maximum advantage of discoveries. The greater focus will help you to understand the full picture, and, as a result, to analyse more comprehensively how developments could impact your organisation and how you could capitalise on them.
6. Active listening empowers you as a leader
Active listening is empowering, and empowerment builds confidence. By listening actively, you gain an understanding of what will be beneficial in the workplace, which expands your perspective and empowers you. You’ll become more aware of what’s happening in your workplace, and you’ll communicate with superiors and subordinates much better. All of this paves the way for you to lead with confidence.
Book a course with us
Active listening is a communication skill that builds trust between you and your colleagues, and that empowers you to make informed decisions, resolve issues, and drive a team or organisation towards success, based on awareness and absorption of all the information necessary to achieve this.
We offer a variety of courses, such as coaching courses, in which you can learn about active listening and other communication skills to improve your own leadership skills. To find out more about our courses, visit our Courses page and click on the relevant course. Alternatively, or if you’d like more information before booking, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, send us a message using the form on our Contact page or call us on 0161 826 3139. We look forward to hearing from you and advising you on the right course for you.