How to Listen More Effectively

There’s a growing feeling among workers that their leaders talk at them but not with them, the organizational consulting group Korn Ferry believes, and the pandemic is only making things worse.

“Leaders and employees are stuck in a communication cycle of giving information and providing updates instead of really connecting,” says Dennis Baltzley, Korn Ferry’s global solutions leader for leadership development. Listening often is an underdeveloped skill, especially when the topic is distressing or uncomfortable.

To that end, Korn Ferry recommends you try these techniques to become more effective:

*    Drop the entitlement. “Because the higher one rises, the more they think they know the answers because of their seasoned experience,” says Kevin Cashman, Korn Ferry’s global leader of CEO and executive development. Slow down and take time to listen to those below you, he advises.
*    Ask questions. Make a connect connection and show empathy by asking questions, particularly open-ended ones—they’ll invite comments and conversations. Take care to acknowledge and validate what someone says even if you disagree with them; otherwise, they’ll get frustrated and stop engaging with you.
*    Absorb and repeat. Rather than responding right away, try putting in your words what the person said. This shows you understand and can put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
*    Avoid selective perception. “If you take a view or form a judgment at the beginning of the conversation, then you can’t really hear what’s being said,” says Dennis Carey, a Korn Ferry vice chairman and co-leader of the firm’s Board Services practice. This is particularly the case if you get the sense that a person’s complaints are more of the same. You could be missing signs of something more serious.