As a leader of a team in business, I have come to realise the tremendous significance of listening for meaning. It goes beyond merely hearing words, and what people say. But it's that reading between the lines, and understanding the deeper layers of communication and connecting with my team members on a profound level. I have three examples below from my life in corporate that might come in handy to think about and understand why the skill of listening is so crucial for any leader.
1. Embracing Empathy
During a particularly challenging project, one of my team members seemed withdrawn and disengaged. Instead of dismissing it as a personal issue, I decided to sit down with her and truly listen. Through our conversation, I discovered that she was grappling with a personal loss that had left her feeling overwhelmed.
By lending a sympathetic ear, I not only provided her the space to share her emotions but also found ways to support her. This act of genuine listening transformed our professional relationship, as she felt valued and understood, leading to increased productivity and renewed motivation. This connection built loyalty and a life long-friendship that endures to this day, over continents and job roles.
2. Fostering Inclusivity
In a diverse team, it is essential to create an environment where everyone's voices are heard and respected. Once, during a brainstorming session, a quieter team member, usually really reserved in large groups, hesitantly shared a brilliant idea. Recognising the importance of her contribution, I actively listened, encouraging her to elaborate and inviting others to build upon her insights.
Witnessing the impact of her ideas being acknowledged, she gained confidence and started actively participating in subsequent discussions, enriching the team's outcomes. The quieter members of your group have amazing treasures to share, but we often are bombarded by the louder members. Creating space for everyone's voice to be heard creates psychological safety for those team mates who might not feel like shouting it from the roof tops!
3. Nurturing Growth
As a leader, I believe in cultivating the potential of my team members, I always say - I am not training you for this job, but for your next one. One instance that reaffirmed the power of listening for me, was when a team member approached me expressing an interest in exploring a different role within the organisation. Instead of dismissing their request due to potential challenges, or being disappointed they wanted to leave the team, I listened intently and recognised their passion for growth. A growth, I couldn't give them in my team environment. By taking the time to understand their aspirations and providing mentorship, we collaboratively developed a plan that not only aligned their goals with the organisation's needs but also empowered them to thrive in their new role. The result? A motivated team member who felt valued and invested in their personal and professional development.
They thrived in their new role, and inspired others to grow as well. I am always a believer you can't genuinely call yourself an established leader until you have grown another leader.
Listening for meaning enables leaders to connect with their team members beyond the surface, fostering empathy, inclusivity, and growth. By embracing this skill, we empower our teams to reach their full potential, creating a workplace culture built on trust, respect, and collaboration. Let us strive to be leaders who truly listen, making a positive impact on the lives of those we lead and the success of our organisations. Stop listening for interruption, or for finding your opportunity to interject and tell your story.
Practice patience and silence.
And use your ears proportionately to your mouth....
We hope you find these tips helpful and would love to hear about your experiences practicing listening and the bright spots you have had when it had a critical impact or outcome in your business!
At Blue Mercury, we support people to have effective, vulnerable, honest communication. Whether at work or at home. If you are interested in making the most of training and development - Check out some details here or contact us for more information!