There are two sides of the communication coin. Asking good questions is on one side of the coin, on the other is being a good listener. Effective listening will earn the trust of those you engage and will convey your respect for the other who is speaking. Everyone wants to be heard, and we all want to be respected. Being a good listener is a critical step in building confidence and rapport. So, if you want trust and respect from the people in your organization, you need to really listen to them.  

Here are some tips on how you can improve your listening skills: 

* Stop talking! When someone is trying to communicate, don’t be mentally preparing your response, thinking about what you are going to say as soon as they are finished. 

* Don’t give advice too soon. Many leaders, because of their experience or expertise, feel compelled to offer a solution to a problem right away. Wait until the person has fully explained his or her perspective. Here is where follow up questions are important to further the conversation. 

* Try to imagine that person’s point of view. It’s an opportunity to learn something new or gain an alternative perspective. It can provide context, which helps you make sense of a situation and lead to a better decision.

* Ask follow-up questions to ensure you understand what they have been saying.

* Paraphrase what you’re hearing and then ask if you’ve gotten it right.

* Listen with an open mind, not for what you want to hear.

* Listen with your eyes, looking for nonverbal cues. Pay attention to what might not be said. People say as much with their body language and facial expressions as they do with their verbal communication.

* Be open to listen not only to those who agree with you; instead, actively seek out dissenting opinions and thoughts. Listen to those who confront you, challenge you, stretch you, and develop you. This was a valuable characteristic of President Abraham Lincoln’s leadership genius.

* Acknowledge the contributions of those who contribute energy, ideas, actions, or results. Few things go as far in building good will as having others feel like they have been heard.

Asking good questions and listening well are two powerful and efficient skills that a good leader can learn. Your staff, colleagues, congregation, clients and others in your community will feel valued when you ask for their ideas and really listen to them. Steven Covey’s fifth habit of highly effective people has long stuck with me. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,”