Your younger staff were raised to expect a steady stream of information and feedback from their parents, teachers and, now, from you. And your entire workforce is anxious to hear about any strategic shifts as your company positions itself to capitalize on the economic upturn. “It’s your people who will actually enact the new plans,” points out Lisa Caswell, president of North Vancouver, B.C.-based consultancy Being a Better Leader. “The communication piece is critical.” And your constituency isn’t just internal. You also need to articulate to existing and potential clients and investors the case for the changes you’re making.
3 ways to become a better listener
Half of communication is listening. But with so much on your mind, sometimes your thoughts wander when other people are talking and you miss out on valuable information. Here are three techniques to help you take in everything your staff, customers and investors are saying.
- Play it back: As soon as someone finishes telling you something, repeat it to ensure that you’ve understood it correctly. You’ll be surprised how often you haven’t gotten it right.
- Write it down: Taking notes helps you remember what’s being said (especially if you rewrite your notes later the same day). It also signals that you think what people are telling you is important.
- Tilt your head to the side: Seriously — this activates the listening areas of your brain. And, because it suggests that you’re listening carefully, it encourages your interlocutors to share more information by making them feel more comfortable (although you won’t want to hold the position for too long).
Lessons from leaders
“You probably became a CEO because you’re really passionate, really smart, really informed and really obsessed with your own organization’s success. You live it, you eat it, you breathe it, you sleep it. So sometimes, when you get up in front of stakeholders or your community, you’re too involved in your own experience and almost too in love with your own products and services. You don’t have enough perspective to enrol the audience by linking what you do to their interest. When I’m in front of an audience, I talk their language, so they’ll say to themselves, ‘He’s an insider. He’s one of us.”