Active Voice: LISTEN to Become an Inclusive Leader

Do you want to become a more inclusive leader?

Listening is a leadership responsibility that does not appear in the job description. Those who do listen to their employees are in a much better position to lead a diverse and multigenerational workforce. Follow our simple acronym LISTEN to become better at this skill and make others feel more valued.

L – Loosen up – It’s not always easy, but lending a listening, supportive ear can be much more rewarding than telling someone what they should do. Most people prefer to come to their own solutions. So try not to impose your opinions or solutions. If you really must share your brilliant idea, ask first if they want to hear it – say something like, “Would you like to hear my suggestions?”

I – Investigate. Asking relevant questions can show that you’ve been listening and help clarify what has been said. If you’re not sure if you’ve understood correctly, wait until the speaker pauses and then say something like, “Did you mean that x…” Or “I’m not sure if I understood what you were saying about…” You should also use open questions where you can, like “How did that make you feel?” “What did you do next?”

S – Offer your Silence. Try not to interrupt. Being interrupted is frustrating for the other person – it gives the impression that you think you’re more important, or that you don’t have time for what they have to say. If you are naturally a quicker thinker or speaker, force yourself to slow down so that the other person can express themselves. Remember, a pause or a few seconds of silence doesn’t mean that you have to jump in. Letting the other person speak will make it easier for you to understand their message, too.

T – Test your understanding. Sometimes also called reflecting, paraphrasing and summarising what has been said to show that you understand it. This may seem awkward at first, but really shows you’ve been paying attention, and allows the speaker to correct you if you haven’t understood correctly. If you’re not sure how to do this, try starting a sentence with, “It sounds like you are saying…”

E – Maintain Eye Contact. Check your posture and make sure it’s open – avoid crossed arms or crossed legs, which can make you look “closed” or defensive. Leaning slightly forward or sideways while sitting can show that you’re listening – as can a slight tilt of your head or resting your head on your hand.

N – Remain Neutral. Listen without judging, or jumping to conclusions. If you start reacting emotionally to what’s being said, then it can get in the way of listening to what is said next. Try to focus on listening. Equally, don’t assume that you know what’s going to be said next.