The past few entries on active listening skills are hopefully making you curious about the true impact these skills can have. These skills are not optional; active listening and empathy are the foundational soft skills upon which all other leadership skills will be built.
We’ve reviewed four actions you can take to become a strong active listener:
- Listen intently
- Ask questions,
- Focus on the other person’s experiences
- Hear the entire story
Leaders must find time in their busy schedules to slow down and become aware of how they are conducting themselves. It’s important for leaders to reflect on their goals and aspirations and examine different ways to continue to grow.
One way to do this is to engage in self-observation exercises. As a coach, I employ a self-observation exercise that is designed to increase active listening skills in my clients. If you are willing to take the time to try this exercise, I can almost guarantee that you will see improvements in your leadership results.
Self-Observation Exercise – Improving Empathy and Active Listening
Each day pick one or two of the active listening practices identified in the past several blogs (listed above) and incorporate them as you have conversations throughout the day. At least once a day, you should spend a few minutes to reflect on the outcomes of those conversations. Did your new approach work better? Focus on how it made you more effective as a leader. Spend a few moments each day to write these observations in a journal.
Once a week, read your journal entries and answer the following questions in your journal:
- How did I use empathy and active listening to deliver outstanding results?
- What made it important to use active listening skills this week?
- What worked well? What do I wish I had done differently?
- What issues did I become aware of that I might not otherwise have heard about?
- What solutions did I arrive at that are better aligned with my organization’s goals?
- Was I better able to validate my employees and gain additional trust?
- In general, how have my empathy and active listening skills helped me to become a more effective leader this week?
Some of the new behaviors you are experimenting with may feel a little unnatural at first. The more you practice, the more natural it will feel. If appropriate, let others know that this is something you are experimenting with to be a better leader. People can be extremely encouraging when you let them know you want to improve!
Next week we will continue our conversation on the soft skills of leadership.