Most managers will readily acknowledge that communication is one of the essential traits of a good leader. But sometimes they forget there are several elements to communication, and the listening component often falls by the wayside.

Time after time, surveys of employees have shown that when their leaders don’t give serious consideration to their ideas, they tend to lose their initiative. Similarly, a recent poll of workers throughout the U.S. and Canada indicated that over 60% of the respondents agreed that their biggest problem at work was leaders making decisions without seeking input.

Listening is a skill, and like any other skill, leaders can develop it. And the benefits to the organization make it well worth the effort. Here are a few reasons to start now:

Companies Become Proactive

In most businesses, ideas and suggestions begin at the top and flow downward. Instead, engaging employees at the start can be an effective method of finding out what is important to them. With that knowledge, you can resolve many issues upfront rather than having to react to them down the road.

Workers Are Engaged

Active and engaged employees are often the source of innovation. Companies that encourage their workers’ opinions reap the benefits of a stronger bottom line through new or improved products or services.

Businesses Retain Their Top Talent

Employee retention is a big concern for many companies. But those that listen to their workers’ concerns can create a retention strategy that centers on increasing employee morale. Programs that encourage active listening are critical to improving your retention percentage.

Connected Workers Help You Increase Profits

As mentioned, workers who are engaged in their work because they are being heard are more motivated to do what they can to help the organization grow and prosper.

What Can a Business Do to Create a Culture of Listening?

There are several steps any employer can take to improve their listening skills, but it’s crucial to start with a positive mindset.

Make it a Priority to Hear What Your People are Saying

First, acknowledge your urge to talk and interject and set it aside. Remember that you alone don’t have all the answers, and there’s always room for learning, so listening is imperative.

Understand Yourself

Extroverted individuals usually do most of the talking. If you are one of those enthusiastic conversationalists, you’ll have to practice holding back, and allowing for more of a dialogue with those who may need a bit more time to share their thoughts.

Give Your Undivided Attention

In this age of “multitasking”, many leaders tend to do several things at once. That doesn’t work if you want to be a good listener. Splitting your attention may send a message that what the speaker is saying isn’t all that important to you, and whether or not that’s your intention, that’s their perception! The tasks can wait a bit…..and if they truly can’t, politely ask the speaker if you can connect at another time so you can give them the attention they deserve.

Control Your Reactions

This one might take some practice. If you disagree with what’s being said or if it upsets you, your tendency may be to jump in with a response. But, it’s more effective and beneficial to remain calm and quiet until the message has been delivered completely. Take time to think through your response, considering all perspectives. You can then give a more thoughtful response, rather than acting on impulse. And remember, sometimes it’s okay to just agree to disagree.

Employee feedback is essential for making improvements, maintaining a happy workplace, and keeping your best people. And it all begins with developing the art of listening!

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