Listening Builds Leaders Author's Picture

Posted by
Jay Isaacs

Listening Builds Leaders

Listen closely graphic

We all know the old adage of, “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak.” And how about the teacher’s favorite of, “Class put your listening ears on!” Effective listening is critical to building relationships, communicating with others and in our banking world, finding solutions to problems or issues for our customers. Listening is also an excellent sign of a good leader.

There are many techniques recommended for good listening. Many of them relate to body language, such as look the speaker in the eye, facing the speaker or taking notes while listening. However, body language isn’t the only way to be a good listener. Here are a couple of thoughts that might help you and me in our endeavor to improve in this learned skill.

Be present – Making sure that you have dropped the “stress of the moment” at the point in time that you are listening is key to hearing the speaker. Make sure to set the ever-present cell phone aside and take your ear off of the multitude of sounds emanating from it. Your mind should be focused on what is being said.

Put yourself in their position – Trying to understand the position of the speaker not only allows you to empathize but also helps you to grasp their stance or need on an issue. Putting yourself in their role helps to build relationships and understanding.

Keep an open mind – Do not allow yourself to pre-determine or be pre-disposed to a speaker. This is the best place to listen with both ears. Work hard not to interrupt the speaker but wait to hear all of the points that are given. As bankers, this is my personal favorite. You may hear someone bring up a particular issue and have their own resolution in mind, when in fact, a good listener can provide other options. For example, we hear it many times that a customer wants the best rate available for their deposit. A long-term certificate of deposit (CD) is the easy answer, as it would have the highest rate. However, with the potential of rising interest rates, a long term CD might not be the best option for taking advantage of any increase in rates.

Ask questions – Following the speaker’s comments, a good listener should be ready to ask questions. This is the best form of communication because not only does it show that you were listening, but you can be assured you are both on the same page. Clarifying and confirming questions to gain understanding makes for clear and concise communication. Asking questions helps the speaker to know that you are trying to find solutions for their respective issue.

A wise colleague of mine reminded me that listen and silent have the same letters, just rearranged. Let’s stay mindful of listening skills as we grow as leaders.