Good listening skills help business leaders create an environment of employee empowerment and company loyalty.
We know what you’re thinking: countless think pieces and corporate whitepapers have been written on leadership. Again and again they hit you over the head with the same image of a strong, forceful leader — someone who takes initiative, who can coolly provide employee feedback, who can bring their ideas to life. But while confidence and determination are certainly helpful, lessons in leadership too often focus on teaching you how to speak up. For now, let’s talk about an equally important skill: how to pipe down.
Leaders Who Listen
If you’re a leader in your field, good listening might not come naturally. Since you can remember, you’ve been taught to push your ideas forward with steely resolve. But what happens when your employees know how to make your ideas better — but they don’t feel comfortable telling you? How successful is your authority if those who work for you don’t feel it is justified?
Listening is the unsung hero of good leadership — and not just because it makes you more likeable. Listening is an essential building block for trust between you and your employees, and trust goes a long way when you’re making risky ventures. In addition to loyalty, active listening fosters better brainstorming — and in turn, more opportunities to create value.
Loyalty Must Be Earned
Your leadership requires loyalty, and loyalty cannot be gained through volume alone.There’s no better way to gain your employees’ trust than by being a good listener. This will help you implement new, risky ideas with strong organizational support and establish your credentials as a fair and reasonable boss.
Demagogic tendencies, by contrast, will sow discontent and low morale. Employees will only express loyalty when you actively listen to their ideas. Listening means incorporating employees’ ideas when you agree with them, and offering well-reasoned justifications when you do not.
The Physics of Listening
Once you’ve established your willingness to listen, your team collaborations will become more innovative. Far from merely passive, listening is a powerful act in its own right.
Let’s go back to Physics 101: according to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, applying force on an object means the object applies the same force on you.
This is why listening works so well: each time you listen to an employee’s suggestion, you will benefit in equal measure. If you’re a bad listener, much of your employee’s input will be lost to friction, heat, or noise. However, when you listen actively and carefully, you can absorb your coworkers’ ideas and improve the direction of the organization.
Of course, it’s possible your coworker has an idea that isn’t fully formed —and that’s okay. A successful listener helps their team members by checking for flaws in their thinking. Brainstorming is a constant chain reaction of ideas. If you forget to listen attentively, all that energy will just dissipate irretrievably into thin air.
Listening Begets Listening
Here’s the main takeaway: for lasting success in leadership, don’t simply impose your will onto your employees. From business to politics to education, blind dictation only creates resentment. A sustainable leadership strategy means ensuring each of your employees feels like an important, contributing member of your organizational structure. When it comes to implementing your ideas, a corporate culture of listening will pay off in greater loyalty and better delivery. Ultimately, listening to your employees means your employees will listen to you.