Alison Davis, Founder & CEO of Davis & Company, spends a lot of time asking employees about how leaders can be more effective communicators. She shared her findings in a recent Inc.com article, which I’m passing along to you. Why is communication so important? Because leaders who create a two-way communication culture breed engaged employees.
What is the No. 1 theme that emerges in Davis’ findings? A lack of listening. She says the most effective way to become a better listener is to identify the barriers that prevent you from listening effectively and then invoke paraphrasing.
The five most common listening barriers are:
- Mind-reading. This is when you focus on trying to figure out what the other person is really thinking and feeling, and pay less attention to words.
- This barrier involves listening to some things and not to others – I like to call this selective listening. People tend to dislike words that are threatening, negative, critical, or unpleasant, so they simply block them out.
- If you have a negative perception of an employee, it’s easy to prejudge them and not pay much attention to what they’re say.
- People, especially men, like to problem solve. Because of this, they only hear part of what a person says before jumping in with advice.
- Being right. Many leaders have fragile egos and do not want to be wrong, be criticized or hear suggestions to change. Therefore, they stop listening.
How does one improve? Start actively listening using the technique of “paraphrasing,” where you state in your own words what you think someone just said. Some “paraphrase” lead-ins include: “What I hear you saying is…,” and “In other words…,” and “Let me understand; what was going on for you was…”
WHAT CAN I DO? Identify your listening barrier. When you engage in an important conversation with someone, paraphrase what you think you heard. This will keep you on track to listen vs. falling into old habits that cause you to be to a less effective leader. Great advice for both your personal and professional life. Go forth and conquer!