Why Listening Is So Important to Leaders—and How You Can Improve

One of the most important qualities of a leader is their ability to listen, but not all listening is of the same quality. The organizational development team at Twitter has identified three different types of listening:

  1. Internal listening. This is listening with an iPhone in hand. It’s when you’re focused on your own thoughts or worries, pretending to listen even though your eyes are glued to your screen.
  2. Focused listening. When your phone is down and you’re making eye contact with the other person, but you’re still not picking up on the small nuances they’re sharing.
  3. 360 listening. This is the ideal type of listening. It’s when you’re focused on what the other person is saying, how they’re saying it, and what they’re not saying.

360 listening is crucial to doing good work: it helps people get energized about the task at hand and complete projects more efficiently. If you're unsure of how you can improve your listening skills, try these techniques practiced by Kit Crawford, owner of Clif Bar and Eileen Fisher, the founder of Eileen Fisher Inc.:

  1. Look people in the eye. Put down your phone and close your laptop. Try taking notes. Chances are you’ll be more energized about work and the people you work with.
  2. Create space in your day. Make sure there’s enough space on your calendar so you have enough mental space to fully absorb and act on everything your team is trying to tell you. Can someone else take your place in a meeting? Can you shorten a 30-minute brainstorm to 15 minutes?
  3. Ask more questions. Next time someone asks for advice on their work, clarify what they really need. Ask questions to make sure you understand the situation before validating them or giving suggestions.

Takeaway: Being a good listener is extremely important as a leader. Listening helps you get energized about work, identify problems more quickly, and make the best decisions based on the thoughts and feelings of your team. Practice basic techniques to make sure you're getting the most out of meetings with the rest of your team.


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