Lessons in Leadership: Listen to Understand, Communicate Better

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How listening to understand will help you communicate more effectively

So many people in today’s world are not really listening to understand – we are listening with the intent to reply. One of the greatest lessons in leadership I have learned is the art of listening and truly hearing what the other person is trying to communicate.

Fundamentally, listening is how individuals interpret messages in the communication process. A leader will learn a lot more through listening than just what their employee is trying to communicate. A leader will get a better understanding of the employee, how he or she operates, the employee’s goals, what tools they need to be successful, and what the employee’s expectation of the relationship is.  It is important for the employee to know that they are being listened to by leadership. It will validate the work of the employee and show respect, which will strengthen the working relationship.

I learned the importance of listening the hard way. There is a lot more to listening than just hearing what the employee is saying. I was tasked with the job of collections for a newly created team after a merger. It was my responsibility to collect a set amount for the team each month, based on individual targets. I asked one of the employees from the company we just merged with if they were going to collect the amount for which they were responsible. I received the following response, “Yes, I am just waiting on the final payment from company X.”  We did not receive the payment until the following month, and ultimately we missed out target.

After giving it much thought, I realized that I only heard what the employee said.  What I should have done was focused on not only what she said, but also her nonverbal communication.  I should have asked the follow up questions about the final payment and if there was anything that I could do.  From the nonverbal communication, I could have learned the relative importance the other company put on collection goals.  The next month, I put in the extra focus and work that is required to listen properly and I had a much better result.  Not only did productivity increase, but I was able to strengthen the relationship through trust.

Follow along for the Lessons in Leadership shared by the rest of our Senior Leadership Team throughout the month of March, and share your own on social media with #LessonsInLeadership! 

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The featured photo on this post is “HEAR” by Newtown grafitti and is licensed under CC BY 2.0


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Staff Writer

Victor is a resilient and driven lifelong student of technology, with his most recent emphasis on Analytics, Healthcare, Microsoft and Salesforce. His personal mantra is to seek "victory, however long and hard the road may be." Victor is a staff writer committed to staying on top of industry trends and providing expert advice for today's technical world.