As a ministry leader, the pressure is real. There’s so much you’re often expected to do and to be and if you’re not careful, your most important priorities as a leader can fall by the wayside.
But there’s one priority every leader must possess and protect in order to be effective: The ability to listen well.
Take some time today to reflect on how you’re doing on these four types of listening…
1. Intentional listening
Intentional listening is digesting what you’re hearing and fully giving your attention to it. It involves processing and setting aside time to understand. Sometimes it requires action, other times, the person simply wants to feel heard.
Circle up weekly with those who report to you and start by asking how they are doing on a personal level. Communicate that they matter to you and prioritize your time with them. Give them your undivided attention by facing them and stepping away from your phone or computer.
Simply communicate in nonverbal ways that this conversation is important to you and that what they have to say, in that moment, is the most important thing on your schedule.
2. Intuitive listening
Many things you hear you might take at face value. But other times, you need to think more deeply about what they are not ‘actually’ saying. This takes a bit more effort from a leadership standpoint.
For example, do the issues you’re hearing about all have a similar root or cause? Are there behaviors of other employees that people are struggling with? Are there projects they have trouble finishing?
Listening intuitively means picking up on some of those things and delving deeper by asking questions. Be curious in order to unpack more meaningful conversations. Then, after the meeting, take the extra effort to analyze what is and perhaps is not being said.
3. Corporate listening
Do you have people around you who understand what the organization needs and are not afraid to tell you?
Ask these questions of these key people: What are you hearing? What are people challenged with? Where are we organizationally? Where are some of the ceilings that we’re bumping up against in achieving our objectives? What communication from me as a leader would be valuable in helping people understand how important they are to that process?
Good leaders set goals, define objectives, and hold their teams accountable. But the best leaders seek to keep a pulse on the overall culture of the organization by asking key people to weigh in.
Involve your executive teams in corporate listening. Perhaps some of your team leads could use your support by communicating something important that is not getting through. Or maybe you’ve been misunderstood and you need to clarify and make that right.
There are times in an organization’s growth and life cycle that communication from the leader based on what you’re hearing corporately can be life giving, clarifying, encouraging, and motivating for the people.
But if as leaders we’re not listening well to our teams, we can often say things that feel completely tone deaf to them.
Having no connection to what’s really going on with your team is a dangerous place to be.
4. Listening to hard things
Do you create an environment within your organization where people feel the freedom to voice observations or feelings, even if negative?
It’s never fun to hear someone call to question your ability to lead or decisions you’ve made. But part of the benefit from listening to negative feedback is the long-term loyalty that comes out of those experiences.
Listening well means validating concerns or feelings whether or not you agree with them in the moment. Repeat what is being said so the person feels heard and they feel as though their perspective is valued. Thank them for bringing it to you. Tell them you value their role in the organization and believe the best about them.
Then share your perspective. Perhaps there are some things you can correct about how they’ve gotten to this conclusion. Or you might find that there is no correction to be had, but instead their perspective is completely legitimate and it has been a blind spot for you. There is great value in people coming to you with that kind of information.
Finally and most importantly, in order to listen well as a leader, stay spiritually prepared every day you set foot in your office. Consider these four areas and ask God to show you where you could use some work during this next season of your leadership.
Then, listen up.
For more leadership insight and tips from Trent on how to be a better listener, check out the entire Cause+Effect podcast episode, The Skill of Listening as a Leader.