6 Tips for Leaders to Improve Their Listening Skills in 2021


As any good leader will tell you, active listening is a key leadership skill. It becomes even more important during the pandemic, as many teams are working remotely and can’t rely on non-verbal cues anymore. Fortunately, like many other soft skills, active listening is something you can improve on with practice. Here are six tips that will help you in this regard.


  1. Consider Parenting Techniques


Reflective parenting is all about hearing and reflecting the child’s feelings to achieve better communication. Similarly, a leader should take the time to reflect and understand the feelings of their team. If they tell you that something “can’t be done,” don’t try to convince them otherwise. Instead, find out why they think it can’t be done and elaborate on why it’s important.


  1. Listen for Emotions


One of the best ways to meet your employees where they are is to focus on powerful listening. Many leaders believe that listening is solely a cognitive exercise, i.e. listening for content. In truth, you should listen for energy and emotions as well. This helps you set the context for what you’re hearing while making it easier to understand what the other person is experiencing.


  1. Practice “Yes, and”


“Yes, and” is an old improv comedy staple, but it can also teach you to be a better listener. This technique helps you practice expanding on a concept, which allows you to understand it. The idea is to see the issue from someone else’s shoes. You can practice this technique by asking open-ended questions that let the other person know that you want to know more.


  1. Park Your Agenda


When you go into an interaction, your main goal should be to understand the other person’s point of view. However, this won’t work if you find yourself unable to listen without an agenda. Instead of thinking about your needs and wants, be open and curious. This will make it easier to follow up thoughtfully, ask deeper questions, and ultimately forge a stronger connection.


  1. Adjust Your Listening Style


Listening is a lot like speaking, in that there’s no “one-size-fits-all.” Since every person communicates differently, we should listen to others in different ways. For instance, some people don’t like being interrupted and prefer to run with their stream of consciousness. Others may need more feedback to realize that the person they’re talking to is listening.


  1. Stick to the 3-1 Ratio


The 3-1 ratio may be the most important rule of listening. It refers to the fact that you should listen three times longer than you talk. Even if you get negative feedback, you should give yourself some time to reflect on it instead of dismissing it straight away. For most leaders, using a question response tends to be more helpful than using a statement response.