Leadership Communication Lesson #3: Here Are Listening Skills to Use

(Over the weekend we had back to back shows, Saturday it was San SeBastien, Spain and Sunday it is was Lisbon, Portugal. Didn’t have much time between shows as it was a full day’s drive between the two cities. We’re halfway done with the tour, 3 shows to go, heading to Italy next, but we’ve got 3 full days to get there, so we have a little time for some site seeing along the way. We’ll be going through Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona, Spain, through the South of France into Italy for our next concert in Milan on June 7th. Check out pictures from my trip on my Facebook page.

Next stop, Madrid!
If you’d like to follow my unique journey go to Facebook  to see the map of the path we’ll be taking throughout this tour of Western Europe.

In preparation for my time away, I’ve written a number of blog posts that have been scheduled to go out in advance, here’s #3).

OK, I have to admit, there are some skills involved with effectively listening. But, my caveat is that they only work when we make the decision that it is important to listen as I argued in my article “Listening is Not a Skill, It’s a Decision,” kicking off this series on leadership communication.

Here are 3 actual listening skills you can practice to make the person you are communicating with feel like you are listening:

  1. Eye contact – maintain focused, appropriate eye contact with the person with whom you are speaking. Make sure you are not staring, and that you blink regularly, but maintain focus on the person. The best leaders do this extremely well. And, when you do this, you will make the person with whom you are communicating feel like the most important person in the world. If you want to influence someone, this is key (if you are communicating with someone not of western culture you may want to learn a little about the culture of the person as in some cultures direct eye contact is a sign of dis-respect and deferred eyes shows respect.).
  2. Listen actively – there is a curriculum around the concept of “Active Listening.” This includes #1 and #3 in this list but also includes some of these strategies:
    • Nodding your head when key points are made to show you are paying attention.
    • Giving brief affirming statements, such as, “I see,” “I understand,” “make sense,” etc. when you hear points that strike you as important to the person speaking. These body language signals and short commentary should be done so as not to interfere with the individual that is speaking but should look to affirm and compliment their style.
    • Giving enough time when it seems as though the person has completed their thought before responding. You may even want to count to 3 before doing so, to ensure the person has finished.
  3. Ask clarifying questions or statements to go deeper – one of the most powerful active listening skills is taking what the person has said and identify questions you can ask for the person to go deeper, or simply making statements such as:
    • Tell me more
    • Why is that?
    • Use the echo strategy. Taking the last word or two the person has said and repeating it back, such as, “I knew I’d have a lot on my plate when I returned from vacation.” All you would say with an inquisitive tone, “your vacation?” And, this will have the person automatically go into talking about their vacation.

So, those are 3 power listening strategies. They are definitely skills that we need to learn and practice. Once we do, then it becomes a decision to use them. The more we practice those skills, the better we get, and the more they will become a habit, and then the decision I wrote about last week becomes an unconscious one.

What do you think of this series on Leadership Communication Lessons? Please leave a comment below and we’ve got two more coming your way before I return to the office on June 14th.

‘next up are concerts in Milan and Florence, Italy


2 thoughts on “Leadership Communication Lesson #3: Here Are Listening Skills to Use

  1. Joyce says:

    a number of those recommendations will not work for virtual teams. Any recommendations for vitual teams?

  2. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    thank you for stopping by and being inspired to ask for more information. My apologies for taking so long to reply as I was out of the country on holiday and just returned earlier this week.

    In any situation when certain strategies are unavailable to us that means we have to increase the application of the ones that are. From what I can see, the only one that would not work for virtual teams is the appropriate eye contact, and the affirming head nods, etc.

    On virtual teams, I assume you communicate with e-mail, text, IMs and phone/Skype? You can use all of the above in those media, and even the eye contact and head movements if you are on a Skype video call, certainly.

    Which ones specifically did you not think would work on virtual teams? What communication medium would you be using and concerned with. Let me know and I’m happy to offer additional suggestions.

    Thanks, again for contributing here.

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