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Leading from the front and middle

Active Listening 

Communicating effectively is difficult, yet it is such an important skill for every emerging leader – in fact, for every leader. Active listening is a vital component of communication and crucial to your positive leadership style.
 
Consider when effective communication may be important: 
 
•Sharing vision and purpose for team direction and organisational messaging 
 
•Setting expectations •Giving feedback and having difficult conversations 
 
•Providing praise and acknowledge 
 
•Planning for development 
 
•General interaction and engagement 
 
While we communicate everyday, often the outcome is not as we would expect it to be. Barriers to effective communication may be physical (we can’t hear properly, there are other noises, we are hungry and can’t concentrate); they may be emotional (we are upset, they are upset or angry, we don’t connect with them, we don’t like them, or we simply can’t be bothered); or they simply may be because we are not in a position to ‘listen’ effectively. 
 
To communicate well, we must first seek to understand. To do that, you must truly, actively listen. Consider the Open Mind, Open Heart, Open Will model:
 

 

Active listening is a technique used to support effective communication. This is where we move beyond simply listening; to listening where we seek to understand.

 

 

 Being present
      •  •This might just mean listening without a response but clearly signalling your attention and care through attentive body language.
 Enquiring  •Open questions – ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘tell me more’, ‘what else’. Monitor use of ‘why’.
 •Closed questions – to check for correct understanding – invite a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. Use cautiously.
 •Active questions – “What else?”, “Can you help me understand why you think that?”
 Paraphrasing  •Repeat back or summarise meaning in your own words – avoid interpreting or ‘parroting’.
 •“So you think that what they did was unacceptable...?”
 Reflections emotions   •State what you sense the speaker’s underlying feelings seem to be – without judgement. Pick a feeling which they will be willing to ‘own’.
 •“You seem to be feeling quite frustrated about this...”
 Reflecting meaning and emotions  •Combine the above two.
 •“So it really surprised you when they said that and now you’re not sure what to think...”

And these are four things that Active Listening is NOT :

  
 Advising  •Attempting to be helpful by ‘solving’.
 •“If I were you, I’d...”
 Probing  •Seeking out what you see as necessary information – often so that you can solve.
 •Can also feel like interrogation – “So why did you…?”
 Interpreting  •Trying to be aware of the speaker’s ‘real’ motives – second guessing.
 •“You’re just saying that because…” “What you really mean is…”
 Evaluating  •Agreeing or disagreeing with (or judging) what the speaker is saying.
 •“You can’t say that!” “You don’t want to feel like that.”  

Like most skills, active listening takes practice to master. The trick is to honestly evaluate yourself before any conversation (“How am I going to listen to this person?”, “What might get in the way of me listening?”) and after it (“Did I listen as well as I could?”, and “Do I feel that the person felt listened to?”). 
 
FASTLEAD tip: Use the active question “Anything else?” - followed by a SILENCE. This gives team members time to think and respond. Very often this tactic will illicit a key piece of information that might otherwise not have been proffered. 
 
Send your feedback - at the FASTLEAD Forum - on how you’re leadership style has benefited from active listening. 
 
Lyanne Coley 
 
FASTLEAD
Coaching Team         
      

 

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