Being a good communicator is often cited as one of the key characteristics of a strong leader. But when people think about communication, such as instructions from managers to their teams, most think about how that person talks to their employees, and often don’t consider that active listening is just as important, if not more important.

Truly effective communication isn’t just about talking, it’s about listening carefully to others’ stories, asking questions, and taking the time to have conversations for depth and understanding. People often think they are good listeners, but active listening requires a conscious effort to hear and understand the message being sent. Active listening means intuitively listening to the other person’s story, asking questions, and probing conversations for context and understanding, taking into account their needs.

According to the Harvard Business Review, listening is unfortunately a learned skill, but with the shift to remote and hybrid work during the pandemic, it’s never been more important for leaders to be active listeners. A 2015 study found that 78 percent of undergraduate business schools listed “presenting” as a learning objective, but only 11 percent identified listening.

The article identified three aspects of active listening:

  • Cognitive: Paying attention to, comprehending and integrating all the information you receive from the other person.
  • Emotional: Remain calm and compassionate during the conversation and control any emotional reactions – such as irritation or boredom – you may feel.
  • Behavior: Communicate interest and understanding both verbally and non-verbally.

Cheryl Bachelder, former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and author of a leadership book, is quoted in an article on as saying that one of the keys to her leadership success is making a conscious decision to make the workplace a place where people feel comfortable. they were treated with dignity and respect. This helped managers to listen and cooperate because employees felt valued. While social media and technology have definitely improved our lives, they can hinder us from developing active listening skills.

An article on also discussed how an effective leader can actively listen so they can make better, more informed decisions while communicating with employees and stakeholders.

Forbes Coaches Council members shared some active listening tips:

  • Stay in the moment. Active listening requires participation, patience, and practice. It shows your interest in other people’s opinions, helps you gain credibility, and allows you to understand your team more deeply.
  • Don’t answer too quickly. Acknowledge what you’ve heard, thank others for their input, and say you’d like a few days to digest what they’ve said. Then set a time to follow up.
  • “What am I missing or doing wrong?” show humility by asking the question. It requires humility because you have to believe that you don’t understand and believe that there might be something more valuable to learn.
  • Try a collaborative mindset. In addition to humility and curiosity, the willingness to hear other ideas makes leaders more creative and collaborative because they know that their knowledge will always be there, but the wisdom of the team is just as important.
  • Ask questions! Leaders need to understand that actively listening to others and leading by asking at least two questions for every question they answer helps employees feel heard. Be curious.
  • Learn to read between the lines. Active listening involves studying and understanding body language, communication and management styles. Leaders who listen carefully and respond clearly will feel respected and supported by their teams.
  • Make a checklist to help you stay focused. Silence your phone, turn off notifications, and eliminate any other distractions to be there when the employee is speaking. Then listen and ask questions only after the speaker has finished.
  • Try not to get in the way. It’s tempting to rush in and share your thoughts, but when you interrupt, you demotivate others. Take a deep breath and pay attention to their words.
  • Active, thoughtful listening asks you to pay attention not only to the content of the words, but also to the emotion behind them. Be open and receptive to the whole message being sent.

Hand in hand with active listening is trust. Great Place to Work, a global research consultancy that partners with Fortune Magazine to conduct its annual study of “Best Companies,” confirms that more than 90 percent of employees surveyed believe management is transparent in its business practices. Employees who feel that their ideas and concerns are listened to are more likely to trust their employers. Transparency and active listening will increase your team’s engagement and satisfaction, making learning to listen actively a win-win for everyone.

Melissa Powell is the CEO of The Allure Group. He has nearly 20 years of experience coordinating, evaluating and improving senior care in New Jersey and New York.


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