No matter how smart you are or how successful your business currently is, it can always be better. The best entrepreneurs know when it is time to shut up and listen to the people around them.
Listening isn’t the easiest task to accomplish. We all love the sound of our own voice, but many times people who work with you, in position to help your business, have insights that may not have occurred to you.
“As a leader, you need to have a strong voice and you need to know when it’s time to listen,” says Amy Jen Su, co-owner of Paravis Partners, an executive training and coaching firm. “A real conversation is a two-way dialogue; it requires both parts.”
There are many ways to be a successful leader. A sure way to fail is to think you know everything. Here are five simple ways to get started:
Understand you don’t have all the answers.
This can be a tough feeling. As an entrepreneur, you have had to make decision after decision and your success relies on it. Yet it takes a special kind of person to know they have what it takes to run a successful business, without that same self-confidence leading to arrogance.
Collaboration, when done properly, is one of the strongest leadership forms available to you. Granted, you can’t share all of the decision-making responsibilities, but you can share the brainstorming from which those decisions form.
Each of us have our own way of looking at things. Taking the time to get a different viewpoint can mean the difference between success and many mistakes.
Really, really listen to what employees have to say.
Some of us are good listeners and some of us are not. Most of us think we are. This is one of those times it would be best if you knew the truth. Ask your friends, co-workers or spouse how they would describe you as a listener. You might be surprised at their answers. Use their input to improve your listening skills.
Don’t assume for a moment that good listening skills are something people are born with. Like everything else, communication skills can be improved with practice, time and an understanding of what you want to accomplish.
Reflective listening, paying attention to the speaker, not fidgeting or acting preoccupied are all skills that will help you get the most out of a conversation.
Don’t make assumptions.
Just because you think you know what your employee will say, don’t cut them off. One, its rude and, two, they may surprise you. Listen to their words, watch the body language and give them the opportunity to share their entire thought. Once they have finished, verify what they have said.
Effective listeners don’t assume they know what the speaker is going to say, they listen and make sure they are clear on what has been said. “Having a company culture where your employees know their ideas and suggestions are heard will improve productivity, employee retention, and inspire innovation,” says Dick Jones, founder and president of Jones Simply Sales who recently made significant investment in apartments in NYC. “Making this a regular activity will help you get a lot of new ideas to grow your small business.