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How to be a better leader: Harness active listening in workplace conversations

Communication is at the heart of effective relationships. This is true of personal as well as workplace relationships. Relationships falter when either or both parties have ceased to effectively communicate and therefore do not create shared meaning as a result of conversations. How many times do you discover after a meeting or conversation that others have a different view of what was said or agreed compared to you?

Effective communication in the workplace

In the workplace, we have many types of conversations every day. Effective communication is vital. Some are short and to the point, often task-focused. Others are longer and perhaps more complex. They may also be sensitive and challenging in terms of the nature of the conversation. Managers and leaders need to be able to ensure that, no matter the conversation, they have the skills to ensure shared meaning.

Using active listening in workplace conversations

The skills that coaches develop can give useful insight into effective conversations. As coaches, we are encouraged to develop the skills of active listening. This means that we do more than hear words in a conversation but rather are attuned to what is really being communicated, both verbally and non-verbally. It is a conscious and deliberate way of communicating with someone else by concentrating and being fully present.

Yes, we focus on the words being said, their nuances and meaning, but also listen for the underlying meaning being ascribed to them. Non-verbal cues expressed through body language can often communicate as much as the spoken word. Both verbal and non-verbal communication convey the emotions that accompany them. Effective conversations are those where we feel safe to express these emotions.

Empathy and compassion in the workplace

At the heart of this process lies empathy and compassion for the client and a concern to help them progress in a safe and non-judgmental environment. We are not concerned with solving other people’s problems or jumping in to tell them what to do. Rather coaching is about helping the client to self-reflect and learn about themselves and the situation. Out of this process, the client can generate their own solutions and outcomes relevant to their goals or aims.

How to be a better leader

What can managers learn from coaching skills? First, we can accept that when an employee comes to us with a problem, the solution lies within them. If we trust that they have the capabilities and knowledge, then we can encourage them to seek out the solution with support and guidance.

It is easier, and probably quicker, to tell someone what to do, but in the long run, they are not learning. Seeing workplace conversations as opportunities for growth and development can give new perspectives to our conversations with team members. At the same time, this approach shows respect and confidence by the manager in their team member which similarly builds rapport and relationship. Active listening is a skill that enables managers and leaders to listen closely to what is really being said by those around them which aids team building. It is a skill that not only coaches need but we can all benefit from in the workplace.

Do you use active listening to be a better leader?

If you'd like to find out how coaching can help you to harness your active listening skills and improve your workplace communication then get in touch at

How to be a better leader, Harness Active Listening | Rose + Bloom Coaching, Henley on Thames


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