Listening: The Critical Skill for Managers and Leaders

leadership development personal development Feb 28, 2011
Listening skills for leadership development

How good of a listener are you? Corporate wide feedback often reveals that managers and leaders believe they are much better listeners than they are. Even if you are an effective listener, you can probably improve, especially in certain situations. Why the disconnect?  Most of us never take any formal training in listening and can only judge how good or poor of a listener we are from those around us - and usually we say we're better than everyone else.

Listening well takes some practice and getting feedback from who you are listening to. You will fail to understand how well you are listen until you know if the person speaking feels heard and understood. Good listening goes beyond just knowing the facts that the person is relaying to you.  Let's take a look at the 3 types of listening.

Three Types of Listening

Level 1- Subjective: You relate what you are hearing to yourself and your experiences. When you are using Level 1 listening you will respond by relating back one of your own similar experiences. Ultimately, you are not paying full attention to the speaker because your are distracted by coming up with your own experiences and connecting to those experiences. As a result, the person speaking rarely feels listened to or connected to with Level 1 listening.

Level 2- Objective: With objective listening you are focused on what the other person is saying. There are no thoughts about how the speaker's experience relates to your experience. You are hearing the facts and can relay them back to the speaker. Traditionally taught active listening is Level 2 listening. Objective listening is much more effective than subjective listening, but still connects only facts, not emotions.

Level 3- Intuitive: Intuitive listening gets to the whole message the speaker is conveying. As an intuitive listener you pay attention to more than the words. You listen also for what's not being said, body language and tone of voice, expressiveness, and emotion. This is the most powerful form of listening and allows you, the listener, to connect with the speaker. When it's your turn to let the speaker know what you've been hearing, you go beyond paraphrasing to include your more broad understanding of the speaker's full situation, including emotional components. 

Each type of listening has its place. However, when the discussion is serious, Level 3 Listening will get the best results.

What will you do today to become a better listener?

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