Jobs and the Future of Work

3 ways to 'listen' your way to better leadership

Matteo Achilli (R) works with one of his assistants in his office in Formello, north of Rome July 25, 2013. Achilli, dubbed the Italian Zuckerberg by Panorama Economy, is the 21-year-old founder of Egomnia, a social network created to match companies looking to hire graduate job seekers. According to Achilli, Egomnia, which was founded in February 2012, has around 100,000 users, about 600 multinational companies in Italy as clients and a 2013 sales volume of about 500,000 euros. Picture taken July 25, 2013

Great leaders don't just listen what people say, they notice what they don't say, too Image: REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Rachel Hallett
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How many of us truly take on board what co-workers are saying?

Listening properly isn’t just about looking up from your laptop and giving the other person your undivided attention, it’s a key skill that all leaders should develop, according to Melissa Daimler in the Harvard Business Review.

Daimler, who heads Twitter’s Global Learning and Organizational Development team, explains that "360 listening", where you’re not only listening to what the person is saying, but how they’re saying it, and even picking up on what they’re not saying, is a powerful – and often overlooked – leadership tool.

While 360 listening can be challenging to master, there are ways for leaders to practise the skill. Daimler suggests trying these three things this week.

1. Look people in the eye

Put away your phone or laptop during meetings, and instead focus on what people are trying to tell you. Maintaining eye contact not only builds trust but a stronger working environment, Daimler says.

She quotes Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT who studies the psychology of online connectivity, who wrote in her book Reclaiming Conversation: “We face a significant choice. It is not about giving up our phones but about using them with greater intention. Conversation is there for us to reclaim.”

2. Create space in your day

Daimler says that rushing through important conversations or attempting to cram meetings into a hectic schedule leaves you with no time to listen properly to other people.

“Give yourself time for reflection and space throughout the day, so that when you are talking with someone, you can give them your full attention,” she writes.

3. Ask more questions

She suggests that next time a co-worker asks for advice, make sure you’re listening and understand the situation. Then, before replying, ask a question. This will help you understand what they need. Often it’s simply reassurance from you that they’re making the right decision.

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