Leaders in the business and nonprofit worlds need to develop a number of skills in order to succeed. During the pandemic, we’ve all worked on our emotional intelligence, traversing brand new avenues of communication and interaction. Some have an innate talent for this while others have to work hard to hone those skills. 

In this continuously topsy-turvy world, how do we figure out what our employees, volunteers, friends, and family need? And how can we find the best way to support them?

We listen.

However, this isn’t just any kind of listening -- we have to be active listeners. Sometimes, especially in stressful situations, we can find our minds wandering, contemplating the next thing we’re going to say in response to the person talking. To engage in active listening, we must stay present and available. 

Take the time to truly hear what the other person is saying. By being open to those around us (whether that’s in our personal or professional life) and actively listening, we can better support them, share in their experience, and build stronger relationships. In this time of social distancing and remote work, we can all use a little of that human connection. 

By engaging in active listening, we’re also developing additional skills and knowledge from the person we’re interacting with. I know I have found it incredibly beneficial to listen to the struggles and experiences of the individuals I’ve mentored. I’m incredibly grateful for the lessons they’ve taught me over the years. As we listen, we learn. And as we learn, we grow.

One of the most amazing parts of developing our listening skills comes when we turn that skill inward. Listening to our body’s needs and our thoughts opens the door to better communication with ourselves. We can make changes to our routine or implement new structures that can help us lead healthier, more aware, and less stressful lives.

In our last post, The Accidental Leader, we talked about reaching out to other leaders in our industry or community and having conversations that foster connection. 

I’m adding one more layer to that request: really listen to each other. Silence your phones, be present. Actively listen to what the other person is saying. This activity will allow you both the opportunity to improve one of the most impactful skills in your leadership repertoire. 

What is something you’ve learned by listening? Let us know in the comment section below.

Terry Doloughty is the Founder of B.O.S.S. Consulting with thirty years of experience in both the for profit and nonprofit sectors. Terry believes that leadership is the most valuable renewable resource. He’s passionate about sharing his skills and life experiences with the next generation of leaders so they can grow their organizations and support their communities.

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