The best advice that anyone has ever given me is to “listen with your heart.” It is a core value of leadership, but often not prioritized as it should be. After over 20 years of working in the healthcare industry in progressively leading roles, I saw a big gap in the leadership development of many organizations. Too many organizations operate like leadership development is about educating individuals on how to say the right things, walk, sit and dress the right way, develop the right processes, and decision-making. What they are missing is that, at its core, leadership development should be about operating from the heart.

Fewer than 2% of leaders have taken adequate training to become better listeners and as a result, a small number of organizations are taking notice of the things that aren’t being said, showing empathy, and acknowledging and validating the feelings of others. Listening from the heart will make you the kind of leader that others, employees and clients alike, are inspired to follow.

Here are 5 ways to actively engage with your team, colleague or boss.

  • Listen Up:-

    Have you ever had an experience where you are sharing your thoughts and you are interrupted mid-conversation by someone else? How did that make you feel? Did you feel heard or validated? The first thing most of us want to do when we hear someone speak is respond, especially if the communication is a critique, complaint, feedback or suggestion. We go right into self-defense mode but, funny enough, we cannot listen while we are talking. Concentrate on what the other person is saying, and do not conclude anything they are not saying. Wait to create your response until you have had time to think about what they are saying and reflect on it before responding.

  • Create a Safe Space:-

    Nothing makes a person react faster than the impression that what they have to say isn’t valued, or that they’re not important enough to be heard. When any employee cares enough to bring you a suggestion, make them feel at home. We are often so quick to judge or negatively assess someone as a “complainer.” It’s time to shift this perspective. Those who are passionate and deeply care about their work will make the effort to bring forward feedback, questions, concerns and even personal stories. Make time, lean in, focus, and listen to these individuals. It is important to make the other person feel comfortable and safe to share with you. Create a welcoming environment where people will feel relaxed and at ease to share and set aside time in your day to meet with your team members and give them your undivided attention.

  • The Body Never Lies – The Art of Nonverbal Communication:-

    Studies have shown that as much as 93% of communication can be nonverbal—55% being body language, and 38% tone of voice, leaving a mere 7% of communication for spoken words. This can make any communication a challenge. If an employee is saying one thing, but their body language is saying another, be sure to pay attention to what they may really be trying to communicate. Body language cues include, but are not limited to, physical shifts in one’s body, facial expressions, mannerisms, eye contact, touch and changes in voice.

    To be more aware of nonverbal cues, it is important to be self-aware of your emotions and those of others, be mindful of inconsistencies you witness between what is and isn’t being said and trust your instincts. Listening from the heart requires listening with all your senses.

  • Put Yourself in Their Position to Understand Their Point of View:-

    Leadership starts with listening, no matter what is being said. Everyone has thoughts, opinions and feelings. Even when the employee is saying something difficult to hear, understand that there may be more to what they may be expressing. Leading with the heart includes putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, even if you don’t completely know what they are experiencing. In the absence of empathy and compassion, you may be quick to react – likely responding by defending, justifying, or counter blaming. Listening with your heart will allow you to effectively balance organizational needs with your needs as a leader and with employees’ needs.

    The workplace is already full of stress and pressure, and employees may be carrying difficulties from their personal lives on their shoulders as well. Showing empathy will allow leaders to build a strong bond with their team. Empathy and trying to understand others are for their benefit and not for your own.

  • Don’t Try to Be Perfect – Be Perfectly Imperfect:-

    The fastest way to lose your credibility as a leader is not being your authentic self. Be honest with your team about your own faults and shortcomings, but most importantly, about your failures. Being honest about your own imperfections can create a genuine and authentic connection. You can lead by example by showing your team members what honesty, open communication and authenticity could look like in the workplace. By being perfectly imperfect, you will be setting a new standard for what “bringing your whole self to work” could look like.

By: Nina Guildford, Partner, Fringe Transformation Group