Do we truly know what it is to listen? Great leaders are great listeners and I am going to explain why.
Listening is dynamic in nature and requires you to exercise the skill of empathy, compassion and non-judgment. If we are able to demonstrate these skills we are more likely to build a positive rapport, develop healthy working relationships, boost team morale and drive productivity and engagement.
Working onboard can be emotionally and physically exhausting which can lead to strained relationships and conflict, causing crew turnover. It is therefore critically important to be tuned into what is occurring in your environment.
In an industry that is fast paced you are often left with little time to manage or develop interpersonal relationships. However, if you can actively listen to your peers you are in a better position to understand your individual crew members which, in turn, will enhance team cohesion and reduce the possibilities of disharmony and conflict.
Listening should be a mindful practice where you find yourself drawing upon all your senses to truly understand the fundamental needs of the person with whom you are engaging.
Here are my top tips for mastering the art of listening:
Consciously make every effort to engage in active listening. Active listening can be described as deep listening, it requires you to put yourself in their shoes and consider how things may be from their perspective.
When I have been involved in mediations it is quite common for the receiver/listener to respond reactively to the feedback instead of taking the time to sit with the information and process it accordingly. You’ll find that your responses will be less emotional when you allow yourself the space to listen, understand and clarify what you have heard.
Be mindful of your own verbal and non-verbal responses when listening. This includes facial expressions, body language (eg. head and eye movements), gasps or sighs. Listening is key to developing self-awareness, we need to be actively asking for feedback if we want to become exceptional leaders. It is impossible to evolve if we don’t listen.
Be curious and ask open ended questions to gain a deeper understanding of their perspective.
When you have received the information, summarise what you have heard; by reflecting back and clarifying you will reduce the risk of making any assumptions.
Be genuine and present when listening - make time for the individual, show that you care about what they have to say. This will make them feel valued and more engaged. People are our most valuable resources, we need to give them the attention they deserve and not define them simply by their job roles.
Practise non-judgement. As hard as it can be, it’s important to cast our judgements aside and refrain from interrupting with our own opinions.
Always follow up - if someone has taken the courage to open up to you even if they don’t realise it themselves, always check in with them to show that you are reliable.
In a nutshell, do not become complacent in your leadership role. You may have been assigned a title but it doesn’t exempt you from further developing yourself as a leader. Leadership has a lot to do with understanding the needs of your team members and you can only achieve this if you actively show genuine interest in them.
Exceptional listening skills include being able to put your ego aside and seeking to understand rather than wanting to make yourself heard. Crew will know that you have their best interest at heart if you can focus completely on listening to them.
Listening involves more than just hearing. It requires you to recognise a shift in energy, natural behavioural tendencies, body language and facial expressions. We need to remind ourselves that when working with people nothing remains static.
*Image credits: Joshua-Ness; Nick Grant via unsplash