Good leaders are effective communicators. To be an effective communicator, a leader has to be an active listener. There are four guidelines for being an active listener when someone is speaking: being empathetic, giving your full attention, refraining from judgment, and positively responding.
1. Be Empathetic
Active listening begins with empathy. A person who is empathetic can see things from another person's point of view instead of solely considering things from their own viewpoint. Empathetic listening helps improve understanding, respect and trust. Listening in an empathetic way helps reduce tension. Empathy can be difficult because of personal issues, struggles and problems. Being empathetic can require a great deal of patience and practice. With empathy, leaders can be more caring and understanding and tense discussions can be deescalated.
2. Give your Full Attention
Focusing on what a speaker is saying is important and it sometimes requires discipline. With technology and other means of distraction, it is easy for listeners to make speakers feel like they are not paying attention to them. Active listening is about remaining focused on the speaker and listeners should refraining from watching the clock and moving around. Devices should be put away so that a speaker knows that they have the listener's full attention. Active listening is about being fully present. It is about paying attention to words and body language. An important part of actively listening is giving the speaker undivided attention and being mindful to what is being said.
3. Refrain from Judgments
Another essential part of active listening is suspending judgment. Speakers who feel judged by counterpoints and disagreements may feel reluctant to finish their points and might feel that their environment is not a safe place to share. When leaders judge, they expose their lack of maturity and their difficulty in welcoming differences of opinions. Great leaders welcome different opinions and ideas. They seek to listen to understand. They also listen without any assumptions about why a speaking is saying certain things or speaking in a certain tone. They treat other people's opinions with compassion and with respect.
4. Respond to Show Understanding
A person can give subtle responses to what a speaker says including through smiling and making eye contact. More direct ways to respond to speakers are through asking questions and verifying understanding. Relevant questions help listeners develop more interest in what the speaker is saying. They help show that the listeners were paying attention. Questions also help listeners learn more about the topic and questions can help build rapport. Another way of responding as an active listener is by clarifying points. Shared understanding is essential to a conversation. Paraphrasing and summarizing a point can help clarify understanding and can help halt miscommunication and conflict.
Leaders who are active listeners will be able to enjoy the benefits of improved relationships, less stress and frustration, more compassion and a broader understanding of others. Being empathetic, paying attention to others, avoiding judgment and being responsive all help make leaders effective and active listeners.
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Exceptional leaders possess four important qualities: self-awareness, purposefulness, understanding and authenticity. Great leaders are able to empower themselves and the people they work with through self-reflecting, creating clear intentions, recognizing their teammates unique differences and living as role models for what they expect from others.
1. They Practice Self-awareness Self-awareness is a quality that is present in almost every successful leader. For leaders to be effective, they need to be able to understand their values and understand which areas they need to improve. Leaders who are self-aware recognize their strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledging weaknesses can be uncomfortable for leaders, however, looking inwardly with introspection can lead to personal growth after initial reluctance and resistance. Leaders should be able to self-reflect and trust their own intuition.
2. They Make Clear Goals
Effective leaders are able to make intentional plans, visions and goals to accomplish. Goals can keep a leader focused, accountable, and motivated. Goals can also help a leader keep track of their progress. When leaders have plans and visions with a strong sense of purpose, they can expect their team to be more effective. A clear goal and sense of purpose can provide direction, energy and inspiration and can improve productivity and lead to overall success for leaders. When leaders make time to reflect on their intentions, they can create a clearer vision that can help them explain their goals to others and garner support.
3. They Understand Differences Among Team Members
Great leaders recognize the skills and talents of their team members. They understand that their team members have unique abilities and leaders are able to help them utilize their strengths. They also recognize that their team members will come from different backgrounds, levels of experience, and ages. Baby boomers tend to be more reserved, whereas millennials tend to be more interested in collaboration and are good with technology. Great leaders can use the different qualities, skills, and ages of their team members to foster well-being.
4. They Lead by Example
Good leaders practice what they preach and they lead by example. They are authentic in their actions and are role models to their team members. When leaders have an ethical compass that helps motivate them, they can use their skills more nobly. Effective leaders intentionally become positive examples for others. They act out what they believe and do not just speak without substance. They do not lose credibility from their actions because they have integrity. Effective leaders focus more on where their heart leads them. They take into consideration the needs of others.
Great leaders are able to focus inwards. Leaders must also pay attention to their own actions and behaviours to have a greater understanding of the reasons why they behave and react in certain ways. When leaders can take a good look at themselves and their weaknesses, they can develop and grow. The most effective leaders are observant of themselves and of others, are able to make clear goals and plans and are able to lead by example.
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Some employees just aren’t into their jobs.
In fact, that may be true for most of them. The Gallup organization, which regularly measures employee engagement across the country, reports that just 32 percent of employees say they are enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though, says Kerry Alison Wekelo, author of Culture Infusion: 9 Principles to Create and Maintain a Thriving Organizational Culture (www.kerryalison.com). With the right approach, she says, business leaders can improve their corporate culture and motivate employees to perform at their highest capacity.
“Successful leaders are the ones who intentionally use their behavior as a positive example,” Wekelo says. “If you expect employees to work overtime for important deadlines, for example, they are much more inclined to do their best if you also stay and work the overtime.”
To really get those employees engaged, a leader also must commit to supporting the growth of people and not just systems, products or processes, says Wekelo, who is managing director of human resources and operations for Actualize Consulting.
Here are four ways she says leaders can do that: