There are many qualities that make a great leader, including offering great advice, accomplishing goals and working hard for the betterment of both a company and its employees. However, one trait of a strong leader can often get overlooked, and that’s being a good listener in a way that’s actually meaningful and effective. 

If you’re hoping to improve your leadership role as the head of your business, here are some different ways you can begin to listen to your clients and employees more productively, creating a more open, welcoming environment in the workplace along the way. 

Don’t Assume What Someone is Going to Say

As you get to know people over time, you may start to believe that you know what they’re going to say before they say it. However, this generally leads to you only half-listening to a person you’re speaking to, as you’ve assumed that you know the position he or she is going to take in the conversation already. This is a negative way to go about communicating, as you’re never truly listening to the other individual; instead, you’re finishing his or her thoughts without ever hearing the person out in real time. Allow others to say everything they need to in order to feel truly heard and get their message across, instead of stifling them from the start.

Avoid Getting Too Defensive Too Early

Maintaining a leadership role can often put you at the center of arguments between employees or disagreements between clients. Although you may feel the need to get defensive in some cases, it’s crucial that you hear everyone’s viewpoints first before immediately tuning them out to defend your own perspective. After all, exploring another’s ideas and opinions instead of instantly dismissing them for your own viewpoints often encourages greater innovation and productivity in a workplace. 

Reserve Your Judgments 

Walking into a situation already prepared to start criticizing is a bad approach to listening. Regardless of whether you agree wholeheartedly with someone or not, you shouldn’t continuously put someone down or condemn someone’s opinions just because they don’t mirror your own. Offer the other people in the conversation the chance to explain themselves without judgment, or risk making your employees feel negatively ridiculed and too scared to speak up again on future projects.

The concept of listening never seems difficult, but the fact remains that many don’t listen as effectively as they could. Improve your leadership role today by using this information to start reassessing how you approach others, helping to build yourself up as a stronger leader in no time.