When I was undertaking my third degree in Psychology, I acquired new skills related to this discipline. One of them is called ‘active listening’. This involves fully focusing on, understanding, and responding to a speaker in a considered and thoughtful manner. It goes beyond mere hearing or passively receiving the message being communicated. Active listening involves several key elements, including maintaining eye contact, nodding, using verbal affirmations like “I understand” or “go on,” and avoiding interruptions while the other person is speaking. The listener also employs techniques like paraphrasing and summarising what has been said to confirm understanding, as well as asking questions to clarify points and encourage deeper discussion. The goal of active listening is not just to gather information but also to empathise with the speaker, validate their feelings, and build rapport, ultimately facilitating more effective communication and problem-solving.
As the CEO of a company, I now recognise how vital the skill of ‘active listening’ is for effective leadership. Active listening is not merely about hearing; it’s about truly understanding, validating, and responding to what the other person is expressing. In my dual role as a practising psychologist and a business leader, I’ve discovered that this skill is often the distinguishing factor between leaders who simply manage and those who inspire and make an impact.
In the fast-paced world of startups, the focus is often on execution, and we sometimes neglect the human aspects that contribute to a thriving work environment. This is where active listening comes into play. It helps leaders get to the heart of issues, understand team dynamics, and inspire motivation and trust. When people feel heard, they’re more likely to contribute their best ideas and feel a sense of ownership over their work. It’s a two-way street that promotes empathy and understanding, fostering a work culture that values each individual.
For managers and founders, mastering active listening can be transformative. It can help you resolve conflicts quicker, improve your decision-making by incorporating diverse viewpoints, and boost overall team morale. The good news is that active listening is a skill that can be honed with practice and intentionality. So, whether you’re an emerging leader or an experienced manager, I highly recommend investing time to develop this invaluable skill. Your team will thank you, your company will benefit, and you’ll find that the quality of your interactions will improve, both professionally and personally.