Humans are social creatures and meant to be in relationships in which we communicate our feelings, needs, and desires. Psychologist Rollo May said, "communication leads to community, that is to understanding and mutual valuing." We all want to be valued and understood, correct? The process of communication consists of sending and receiving information between people and can be either verbally, non-verbally, or written form. While the medium used for communication is still evolving the process of has not. In any form there must be a sender and a receiver, which can be just one person or many.
As a leader, communication is vital to being effective. It doesn't matter whether you are the President of a company or a manager at a fast food business, communication is key to being successful. Leaders motivate, inspire, and encourage the people they lead. All of these skills require a leader to be an effective communicator. So you ask, what makes a leader a effective communicator? It is my belief that effective communicators must first be effective listeners. This requires a leader to be present and focused on the other person(s) in the conversation. In essence, a leader must listen to understand rather than think of his or her response (i.e. active listening).
We've all been in conversations where our minds start to drift and we lose track of what is being said, Simply, we allow our selves to disengage from the conversation. Of course, we all have been on the other side of this same conversation. Active listening fosters trust, respect, openness, and understanding. Further, it allows us to see something from another person perspective. In an earlier post I discussed empathetic (active) listening and the skills a leader must have to listen actively. To briefly refresh:
Be present, maintain eye contact, give the speaker your undivided attention.
Pay attention to body language.
Be quiet, allow silences.
Paraphrase, repeat, and clarify.
Refrain from solutions.
Ask open ended questions and be respectful (Ohlin, 2016).
As you can see active listening is much more than just giving the speaker your undivided attention. It requires asking relevant questions, engaging the speaker, and monitoring your body language. Throughout my career I have found that when you truly listen and focus on the conversation you demonstrate the speaker you acknowledge and value them. In turn, establishing value positively impacts their self esteem, confidence, self worth, and reduces stress and tension. Further, empathetic listening positively influences teamwork, productivity, elicits openness, and encourages the sharing of ideas and thoughts.
Thanks for reading! I look forward to your comments!
Ohlin, B. (2016). Active listening: The art of empathetic conversation. Retrieved from