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Become a better leader by being a better listener

Timothy Millett
Part of being a good manager and leader is about becoming aware of and sorting out problems within your team and the working environment as a whole. Everyone goes through problems at certain times in their life, and while no one likes personal problems to have an impact on their professional life, it can and does happen. The most important thing is to know that there is someone who can provide a shoulder if it’s needed. The same applies to any problems which may occur in a professional capacity as well.
It’s inevitable therefore that as a manager you will be involved in some of these occurrences. The outcome for your business and for your team depends on how you handle it, and one of the best ways to do that is to become a better listener.
There is sometimes a feeling among managers that you need to take actions in order to solve every problem that comes along. In reality that is not true. You can sometimes be of great help simply by listening to what someone has to say, and that is where managers become better leaders.
For example, let’s suppose that you have noticed a particular employee is having problems at work. Their performance is down on normal impeccable standards, and you are beginning to realize that something needs to be done in order to make sure the person’s performance does not start having a detrimental impact on everyone else.
Now , some managers might think in terms of consequences and threats without giving the team member any opportunity to speak for themselves or explain what the underlying problem might be. In reality there is little chance that this would bring about positive results; the employee clearly has a problem already and being treated in a negative way by their manager is unlikely to make them feel any better.
Now let’s look at the listening approach. If you were to provide a positive environment and give the team member an opportunity to talk about what’s going on and why they think their performance is down on its usual standards, you would be able to listen and find out what the reasons are.
By listening and giving the other person a chance to speak you are effectively putting yourself in a better position for dealing with the matter, since you will be gathering information which can help you solve the problem in a more effective way. Remember that the key to listening effectively is contained in the word itself:  re-arrange the letters of LISTEN and you can form the word SILENT. Actually allowing the other person to talk freely and openly is the first step in listening empathetically.
Learning to listen to people around you will not only help you understand your team members better, it will also help you to become a better leader and mentor. If you become known as someone who is willing to listen instead of simply talking to other people and not hearing what they have to say, you will find that many more team members will come to you for advice and information. As a result you will learn more about them, the business and yourself than you ever thought possible— all of which have extremely positive effects.

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