Are You Listening to the Wisest Voices Or Just the Loudest Ones?
I believe that effective communication and excellent leadership go hand in hand. Being a successful communicator doesn’t just mean knowing the right things to say at the appropriate times — and it certainly doesn’t mean dominating the discussion. To me, communication should involve a healthy balance of active listening and fostering the sharing of ideas to create that safe space where others feel comfortable to speak freely and perform at their best.
Leaders can become better listeners through self-awareness and by working on their emotional intelligence. But as leaders make the effort to improve their listening skills, they should also focus on paying attention to the voices they’re listening to.
The Loudest Voice Is Not Always the Wisest
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the phrase, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This means individuals who are more extroverted and possess the loudest voices might garner more attention over those who may not be quite as expressive or vocal. In the virtual world of work, this potential pitfall is exacerbated, as not everyone is as comfortable sharing openly and freely in meetings and group discussions.
When you only hear advice, perspectives, and ideas from the loudest voices, you might begin to see the world (and your organization) differently, especially if the viewpoints being provided are viewed from a negative or critical lens. “Needy” people get what they want from you because they know how to control conversation and make their priorities seem more important than those who may not be able to advocate as forcefully for themselves.
However, listening well requires the development of a more nuanced ear. This is particularly critical for leaders because of the influence they bring through their positions within organizations. They need to be able to practice discernment, and they must recognize when the most dominant voices are not speaking up for the best interests of the organization and their colleagues.
So how can you train your ear and leverage your leadership to ensure you’re tuning into the most relevant and balanced perspectives?
Identify the Powerful Voices
Consider the people you trust to offer advice and wisdom. Do you trust them and their perspectives because they make the most sense? Or have you been conditioned to trust them because they insist on being heard? Identify those individuals who influence you the most and assess them honestly. You may realize that what’s drawing you to their perspective is not wisdom, but assertiveness. This is not necessarily a problem in and of itself, but your awareness will allow the opportunity to weigh their perspectives against others that may not be voiced so loudly.
This goes for the people you manage, too. Surely, you have a sense of the people on your team who are the confident ones versus those who may be quieter and more reserved. Are you giving the more dominant voices more attention and consideration than they warrant? As leaders, we must be fair and consider all perspectives and take an inclusive approach vs. listening in to the loudest perspectives.
Your role as a leader gives you the opportunity to direct and shift the conversation in the most productive way possible. As you conduct meetings, you may notice a tendency to turn to the more assertive individuals to ask for their perspectives. If you notice this happening, try to get the quieter, less vocal team members to voice their perspectives first by leading a roundtable discussion where everyone is encouraged to share their perspective and thoughts.
It’s also wise to consider the venues in which quieter voices might be able to communicate more effectively. Perhaps there is an employee on your team who feels uncomfortable in meetings or in group environments. Ensure you’re taking the time to meet with everyone one-on-one to hear their perspective. Understand that different people have different communication styles, and then create a safe space for everyone to shine.
Pay Attention to How People Communicate with Each Other
One of the ways in which you can survey the communication landscape within your organization is to observe how people interact when you are not leading the conversation. How is your team engaging with one another? Do they engage with one another in productive ways when you are not leading the charge of those discussions? Your awareness of dynamics within and outside the office can help you determine how you should interact and coach each team member effective two-way communication.
Be Aware of Your Communication Style
Because you are a leader, the way people communicate with you is, perhaps, a reflection of how you communicate with them. If you are brash and bold, your people may think they also need to be brash and bold when they approach you. But when you ask questions and engage others by seeking out their opinions, people will realize that loudness is not necessarily an effective tactic.
Conscious Communication and Coaching from Leaders Edge
When leaders improve their ability to listen, it improves communication throughout the entire organization, both virtually and in-person. I believe in the power of healthy organizational communication, and I want to help leaders refine the ways in which they express themselves — and especially the ways in which they choose to actively listen to others.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Leaders Edge can unleash the power of effective listening and communication within your organization, I invite you to contact me today.
Call me at 1-855-871-3374 or email me at email@example.com. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!