Business Leadership: The Importance of Effective Listening

Article By Mary Jurek

Many, many things we take for granted in life — no one is to blame.  How about beginning with our senses ― see, hear, taste, smell, touch? These are faculties which most healthy young humans are born with and develop throughout early childhood.  If you discover in yourself a standout feature of one particular sensory ability, you just may be one of the lucky persons who identifies their innate talent and sets to task to hone it. With perseverance you will rise to the top of your field.  Whatever that area is: music, cooking, sports, technology or business, superior abilities are a good ticket to success.

Let’s talk about sound.  We all like music and we certainly like to talk and be heard. Hearing sound comes naturally to most, but the ability to understand a sound’s meaning including words and emotions is a skill of a different sort and more than having a “good ear.”  Listening at the level where we comprehend and connect with a deeper understanding doesn’t come easily for many, particularly those whose days are spent in multitasking and filled with numerous distractions. It takes plain hard effort to focus and really put the ear to listening to another’s voice and grasp the emotional meaning of someone who is trying to communicate. Won’t most of us rather listen to our own voices?

Good communication skills are defined not only by what we say and how we say it — it can be both verbal and non-verbal.  We build rapport, merge, blend and connect with others through language.  Communication builds bridges that close both cultural and generational gaps.  It is one of the profound aspects of life that enables the world to go around and make things happen.  It is the major conduit of ideas in all disciplines throughout history.

“The most basic of human needs is the need to understand and be understood.  The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”

— Ralph Nichols

Many surveys say that 85% of one’s success in life is the result of good communication and relationship building skills.  To go further, it implies that you need to travel beyond your normal comfort zone, reaching out to people whose values and temperaments do not necessarily match yours.  It is always easier to stay within your comfort zone, most people do, but being able to rise above is one of the vital attributes of successful leaders.  Possessing the will and strength to face down your fears and conflicts and to make some really tough decisions are qualities of people capable of weathering the worst of storms.

It is the confidence and competence of these types of leaders that motivate people in their daily lives.  Not everyone can rise to the challenges of the leadership role, but all of us can learn and benefit from their incredible self discipline and willingness to change.  Being around confident and successful people can bolster one’s self-esteem because a positive environment always has a wide-sweeping effect on everyone around them.  That is why they are so attractive and often sought out.

Truly great leaders are people who guide, motivate and inspire.  The most successful of them are masters of effective deep listening. It is the kind of “tuning in” that requires open ears, closed mouths, and all preconceived judgments, assumptions and analysis turned off.  Great leaders are never afraid to grow because they want to succeed and that motivation is a big part of it.

Effective deep listening opens the door for:

  • Learning in reciprocal mode, to receive information about the other person as well as yourself.
  • Engaging the heart and the mind, allowing creative flow of ideas through conscious and unconscious thinking.
  • Acknowledging to those who are speaking that their words have true value.
  • Resolving conflicts and healing wounds.
  • Perceiving details you haven’t recognized before in a new way.
  • Allowing solutions to work for a larger group with input from different viewpoints.
  • Delaying reactive judgments.

In our global economy cross-cultural relationships are mutating rapidly.  It is imperative for key functionaries and executives to tune in and absorb the entire experience while conducting international business negotiations. That keen awareness includes deep, effective listening because the nuances of language requires a sharp mind to navigate all the twists and turns and to avoid unnecessary distractions.

If you come to respect the true value of deep, effective listening, you will fall in stride with the kinship of higher reaching minds.  Those people who are more strategic thinkers tend to delay their judgments, rely less on emotional decisions, encourage innovation and foster greater collaboration among team members. They want to connect, merge and build rapport with others. Successful leaders place a high premium on experience and recognize the merits of other trust-worthy opinions which may be out of their sphere.

So my advice to you when you are feeling a bit frustrated about daily issues or feel unsure and resistant to making an important change, spend some time with deep, effective listening.  Turning off the script in your head will allow you to tune in to new thinking.  Your brain will feel refreshed and start charging up with more positive ideas. I bet you will begin to discover new solutions to old problems when you turn down your thoughts and allow yourself to learn from others around you.

Photo: Piera Klein, editor Design-Connect
Mary Jurek Design

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