Leaders can help themselves and their team by practicing the art of listening. When you listen, you help staff members develop their ideas and skills, and help them do their best work.

Every leader can hone their listening skills and become a better leader. The first step to wanting to listen. You have to believe that your team member has something important to tell you. Then, you need to focus your listening on the person and the task.

Here are some ways to focus amid the distractions of a busy workplace.

  • Hold the conversation in the most effective place for what you’re trying to accomplish: at the staff member's desk, at your desk, in the lunchroom, in a meeting room, on a walk. You may or may not need a computer screen.
  • Be aware of symbolic geography. Sitting side by side sends a message about collaboration. Sitting across a desk sends one about rank. Standing or walking together implies collegiality.
  • Avoid distractions, especially interruptions from others. Let the phone ring. Read your email later.
  • Understand your goals: Why is this conversation important? What do you want to accomplish?

Taken from The Language of Coaching, a self-directed course by Poynter's Roy Peter Clark at Poynter NewsU.

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