A note from Kelly King: We often talk about the importance of leaders who listen, but in today’s article, Lauren Sparks breaks down some practical steps all of us need to implement in our leadership.
Leaders. A precious calling to be visionaries, charge the mission, and guide the people. What we often forget though is that the glue to all that we do is listening to people.
I recently walked through a personality test where the instructor asked, “What is it like to be on the other side of yourself?” That afternoon, when I got in my car, I returned the call of one of my team members who was upset. I quickly remembered what the instructor said and thought, “I would want someone to listen to me.”
From that phone call, I learned that listening means we need to lean in, ask questions, repeat statements, and take steps.
When listening to those you lead, first change your posture. Imagine you are stopped in a busy hall by an employee or volunteer with a big concern. You can change your posture to really lean in by moving to the side of the room to eliminate distractions. In conversations, physically move to the end of your chair, make eye contact, and use your non-verbals to confirm to the person speaking that you are engaged and focused in.
Mentally lean in by imagining the scene they are describing and putting yourself in the scenario. Allow yourself to engage with the senses that come with what is being shared. This will allow you to block out all other random thoughts, ensuring a quick solution with an honest response because you are present.
As you lean in, hold yourself back from fixing the problem and shutting down thoughts and ideas. Allow the person time to fully share anything they are thinking before you begin giving steps to take.
As the person is speaking, repeat back what they are saying to you to ensure you are tracking with them. There is nothing more destructive than to falsify information. For example, if Jane comes to you stating that she is overwhelmed by a hurting woman in her small group, you could repeat back saying, “I understand that feeling of being overwhelmed when someone gets to the place of vulnerability and shares with you their reality. What did she say that made you feel most burdened?”
That example leads into asking questions. Engage with those you are leading and those who are asking for you to listen to them by asking questions regarding what is coming out of their mouths. Simply take what they are saying and repeat it back in question form. Ask detailed questions as a way to follow them through the conversation and follow up with what they are saying.
These questions will allow you as the leader to be able to help the person take next steps, or it will reveal to you next steps that you need to take as a leader. We can’t forget that some of the problems the people we lead experience are a direct result of our leadership. Ask yourself introspective questions to check yourself. Did a volunteer come to you overwhelmed? Ask yourself, “Did I assume she could handle more than I asked her to take on?” Did your employee come to you with a great idea that matches the mission of the company? Ask yourself, “How I can support and supply tools to help them excel?”
Complete the conversation and show that you have been listening by providing a next step. You may not have a step in the moment, so your step would be that you will follow back up with them. Do note that in some conversations, the person just needs to be heard. Be sure to ask for permission to give them a next step. You could say something like “Would it be OK if I gave you a next step based on what I have heard you say?” I really respect when I am asked this by my leaders.
Listening requires a clear mind. When those you lead approach you to talk, quickly show them respect by leaning in, asking follow through and follow up questions, repeating statements they have said to ensure you are tracking, and taking steps with the information you are given. There is no telling the gold mind that you are sitting on if you would be still long enough to listen.
Lauren is the Operations Lead for her family’s custom in-ground pool company. She found her passion for organization, processes, and development while serving the women of her church by developing small groups and creating gatherings that last longer than just one event. She is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in organizational communication. She loves coffee, her journal, and a good ink pen. Along with food, flowers, and football, her passion is to mentor girls to fall madly in love with Jesus.