According to Stephen Covey, Author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People “Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is to be listened to, appreciated and understood.” Listening is a powerful tool that should be well-developed in every leader’s tool kit.

Listening is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “to hear something with thoughtful attention, to give consideration.” Listening is an active process in which you take steps to improve and expand what you know to make better decisions. Consider the case for prioritizing listening at or near the top of your leadership development priorities:

Why invest the time and effort to become a good listener? Leaders are charged with making the best decisions in their area of influence. You cannot make the best decisions without enough relevant information ‘in the pool’. Asking good questions and listening leads to better decision-making.

What’s in it for me to become a good listener? The number one way to earn respect is to be a good listener. “Listening builds trust. We tend to trust people who listen to us. We are therefore more open
to their influence, guidance, and persuasion.” George Thompson, author of Verbal Judo.

What’s in it for my team or organization for me to become a great listener? Good listening is a key element in building employee engagement and a strong organizational culture. According to Gallup, an engaged employee is 21% more productive than their disengaged counterpart.

To develop the habit of good listening, cultivate the following three things all good listeners do:

  1. Listen with Respect. Focused attention, they should feel like they are the only person in the room.
  2. Think before you speak. This calls for self-control, the ability to be responsive, not reactive. Good listeners embrace the 50% Rule: 50% of what you are getting ready to say may be true to you and you feel strongly about it. But, if you say it to this person, in this situation, at this time, it won’t be helpful.
    The key idea: “is what I am about to say going to be helpful?” Remember, when your emotions are aroused, you suffer from poor decision making in the moment. Your demonstrated self-control in the moment displays wisdom and strengthens relationships.
  3. Consider the Ripple Effects. Good listeners are adept at dual processing; that is, while listening they are also mindful of how the conversation is going to end. They influence the conversation in a way that their communication partner walks away feeling respected; listened to, appreciated, and understood.

Only through good listening can any of us gather the information we need to do our jobs well. Listening may be the most undervalued and underdeveloped leadership skill, especially in an age of increasing uncertainty and fast-paced change.