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Do you think you’re a good listener?

Many managers take for granted their ability to listen to others. But leaders are often surprised to find out that their peers, direct reports, or bosses think they don’t listen. Leaders are usually shocked to learn that others see them as impatient, judgmental, arrogant, or unaware. If not corrected, poor listening skills will translate into poor relationships and poor employee performance.

According to Michael Hoppe, author of CCL’s guidebook Active Listening, the impact of poor listening is far-reaching. Assessments of thousands of leaders in CCL’s database indicate that many leaders fall short on abilities that directly relate to their listening skills, including:

  • Accepting criticism and making necessary changes in their behavior.
  • Trying to understand what other people think before making judgments.
  • Encouraging direct reports to share.
  • Imagining someone else’s point of view.

Poor listeners are often described in unflattering ways. Colleagues, direct reports, and others may say things like: “He’s not really interested in what I have to say,” or “She’s already made up her mind; why does she bother to ask our opinion?”

Here are 5 signs that your listening skills aren’t up to par:

  1. You’re easily distracted. Multi-tasking is a liability when you need to concentrate on what another person is saying. When you’re talking to someone, don’t accept phone calls, shuffle papers, or show in any way that you aren’t fully paying attention.
  2. Your listening quotient is low: It’s hard for you to focus on the present. Many leaders have a hard time concentrating on what is being — because they mentally shift to what comes next. How often do you think about your response rather than focusing on what the other person is saying?
  3. You might give advice too soon. Many leaders feel compelled to be the expert and offer a solution to a problem right away. Do you suggest what should be done before the other person has fully explained their perspective?
  4. You may downplay others’ feelings. Emotions are part of people’s work experience. If you aren’t in touch with others’ emotions, you could miss out on what is really going on with your employees. Don’t tell people not to feel the way they do, and try not to act uncomfortable when someone expresses emotion.
  5. You shun silence. Many leaders make it a point to fill any silences, or they feel obligated to respond to every comment. These reactions cut short the other person’s time to think and react. Do you talk significantly more than the other person talks?

So try to be an active listener — your peers, employees, and others around you at work will thank you for it.

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