Make "active listening" a habit.

Listening is one of the most essential practices of successful leaders.  In fact, it underpins all healthy relationships.  Messages, both direct and subtle, are coming at us all the time.  The question is whether we are paying close enough attention to truly hear them.  As a leader, a lack of active listening can have major impacts:  you can become disconnected from your customers and your employees, you can miss an idea for your next great innovation, lose touch with the political landscape of your organization, and the list goes on.

In an environment of “continuous partial attention” where multi-tasking is the norm, it’s hard to stay present when we are interacting with others.  How many times have we had a conversation and come away wondering if the person heard a word we said?  We feel deflated, minimized, even disrespected.  On the flip side, when we feel like we have truly been heard, we feel valued and energized.

To become a better listener, shift from passive to active engagement in your interactions.  Turn your phone face-down and turn away from your computer screen.  Make eye contact.  Take notes while the other person is talking.  Stop and summarize what you are hearing along the way.  Ask follow-up questions. At the end of the conversation, recap what you heard, and any next steps that will be taken.

Today, try these techniques with a colleague, friend or family member.  It’ll become one of your most helpful habits!