Talk Less, and Lead More: Active Listening Skills For Leaders

If there is one thing employees struggle with, it’s talking to their bosses for one reason or another. But the worst one could be because their boss just doesn’t listen. Unfortunately, your employees will never tell you things if they know you won’t listen. If you are a leader in 2024, you don’t want to be this guy. You want to be the guy who masters active listening skills for leaders.

You may struggle to listen to employees because your mind juggles a million things at once. It’s like juggling oranges; an employee offering feedback just adds to the bunch. You might nod, but focusing on that single orange is hard when there are so many. 

Perhaps, as a leader, you have the “expert syndrome.” When you’ve spent years climbing the corporate ladder, you’ve developed a sense of confidence in your judgment and decision-making. Employees’ ideas can seem like backseat driving, especially if you have a clear vision. 

Whatever your issue, active listening is something you should work on. Your team members are assets you should use. You can learn how in the information below as I explore active listening and the top listening skills for leaders in 2024. 

Core Principles for Leaders in Active Listening 

Laser Focus: It’s All About the Person and the Message

Imagine you’re binging your favorite Netflix series and suddenly your phone buzzes with notifications. You don’t want to miss a plot twist because you were distracted, right? The same goes for listening to your team!

As a leader, you need to tune out the noise. Get rid of those distractions, whether it’s a buzzing phone or the to-do list in your head. I mean putting away devices, closing unnecessary tabs, and giving the speaker your undivided attention. Be as present in the moment as you would during a cliffhanger episode.

Stay in the Moment: Be Fully Present

With the internet in your hands, your mind may wander like a child in a toy store. But when it comes to listening, being fully present is key. Focus on what your employee is saying without planning your response while they’re still talking.

Staying present shows respect and ensures you catch every part of the conversation. It’s the difference between catching all the Easter eggs in a Marvel movie versus just the main plot points.

Show You Care: Communicate Your Attention

Listening isn’t just about hearing words; it’s about showing the speaker you value their ideas. Maintaining eye contact is important—even if it gets a little uncomfortable. Note that this doesn’t mean staring them down—otherwise, it does get a little weird.

It means looking at them warmly and with all your attention. Pair that with gestures like nodding or a simple “I see,” just like talking to a friend. These small signals make a big difference. It shows your team that you’re not just physically present but mentally engaged as well.

8 Active Listening Skills For Leaders

1. Create a Safe Environment

Creating a safe environment is like setting up a cozy living room for a heart-to-heart chat. You should encourage an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas or opinions without fear of judgment.

Think of it as inviting someone to speak their mind as freely as they would while discussing their favorite plot twist in a movie. 

2. Clear Distractions

Removing distractions is one of the most important active listening skills for leaders. You need to give yourself to the conversation the same way you would a good movie. So when an employee walks in wanting to talk, close your laptop, put phones away, and make sure you have a quiet, interruption-free environment.

3. Ask Questions and Repeat What They Say

Asking questions and repeating words shows that you’re not just hearing but truly understanding the speaker. You show genuine interest by asking questions and paraphrasing what’s been said. In addition, it ensures you don’t take what they say the wrong way. But of course, you should do it in moderation so it doesn’t sound like you’re taunting or mocking them.

4. Check for Nonverbal Cues

Do you know what speaks louder than actions? Nonverbal cues! Your subtle glances and body language are how your partner knows that you are lying, even when it’s convincing.

Learn this superpower and pay attention to cues like facial expressions, posture, and gestures to fully understand the speaker’s emotions and intentions. It is one of the most useful active listening skills for leaders because it can tell you what’s really going on when words fail. 

5. Be Empathetic

Empathy is important in active listening. Imagine comforting a friend who’s just received some bad news. You will put yourself in their shoes, trying to understand their feelings and pain. Do the same when an employee shows up with a problem or struggle.

Showing empathy means acknowledging their emotions and answering with kindness and support, strengthening trust and connection.

6. Avoid Interrupting

If you hate it when someone interrupts you, rest assured your employee or team member hates it just as much, maybe even more! Interrupting disrupts the flow and can make the speaker feel undervalued and awful.

Even if you’re a boss, you should resist the urge to insert and allow team members to communicate their thoughts fully. Showing patience shows respect and ensures that all viewpoints are heard and considered.

7. Provide Constructive Feedback

If you’re like me, you don’t like to say anything that may come out as a criticism. But you’ll have to do it eventually because constructive feedback is necessary for growth and progress. Don’t point out flaws harshly.

Instead, you should offer suggestions in a positive and supportive manner. This approach encourages employees to see feedback as a tool for development rather than you being a boss.

8. Follow-Up

Finally, following up is one of the important active listening skills for leaders that many forget to practice. Following up shows that the conversation was meaningful and action-oriented. It’s like checking in with a friend about a new job or a problem they had.

When some time passes, revisit the topic, provide or ask for updates, and continue the conversation as needed. It will show your team members that you are committed to keeping communication open. 

Talk Less For The Sake of Leadership With Active Listening

Improving your active listening skills as a leader can transform your interactions and improve the work environment. Being fully present shows your team that their thoughts and feelings are your priority. 

Recognizing what the person is saying is also important. Use verbal affirmations like “I see” or “I understand” to show you genuinely listen. In addition, keep an open mind, much like how you’d support a new album from your favorite artist, even when it’s a little strange. 

By following these practical steps, you will improve on active listening skills for leaders and your overall leadership effectiveness, building stronger, more trusting relationships with your team.

About Author
About Author

Waithira Njagi is a seasoned wellness and relationship content writer with nearly a decade of experience. Her passion for helping others navigate the complexities of personal growth and connection shines through in her engaging and insightful writing.
With a knack for distilling complex topics into easily digestible pieces, Waithira's work is geared toward readers seeking guidance and inspiration on their journey to holistic well-being.
When she's not crafting engaging articles, you can find Waithira curled up with a stack of romance novels– always rooting for love to win– or enjoying quality time with her beloved family. Her dedication to spreading love and positivity is evident in everything she creates.

Waithira is here to remind you that life, much like their stories, is a tapestry of connections - to loved ones, and the endless adventures found in books.

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