• What behaviors define leaders that listen?
  • They do not cut off people in the middle of sentences.
  • They do not look at their blackberry or computer when someone is talking to them.
  • They do not ridicule people in public or private. This action almost insures that people will assume that you are not a good listener.

These are just some of the observations I have made in my experience in working with high-powered leaders. The best leaders have been able to balance these behaviors with the amount of time they spend listening to people who are not very articulate or succinct in their conversation.  Essentially, good listening is a character trait. A person must have a general respect for others if he wants to be a good listener. Leaders that look down on the people who work for them are not able to make a permanent shift from poor listener to great listener unless there is a shift in the way that they view people.

Some effective ways to make someone feel heard are:

  • Make eye contact consistently
  • Acknowledge their words by asking clarification questions to show that you are really trying to understand what they are saying
  • Use body language that demonstrates that you are not distracted. If you are distracted, tell them and have the conversation later
  • If you are on the phone, you will have to acknowledge more than you would in person by using phrases that confirm that you are attentively listening on the other line. (i.e. uh-huh, makes sense, okay)

people managementI have heard that managing people is more like playing chess than checkers. This is because each person that you manage comes with a distinct background, experience and motivation. However, there are many forces that push us in the direction of standardizing our approach to the people that we manage. As an organization grows larger, the CEO is distanced from most of his people. Once this happens, he is inclined to play checkers because he does not want be perceived as unfair or accused of playing favorites. However, this transition from playing chess into a an environment where playing checkers is construed as more “fair” is challenging for many leaders.