Becoming a Better Listener and Communicator: How Executive Coaches Can Help Leaders

Whether I'm wearing my manager's hat or my coach's cap, I understand the importance of communication skills. In my previous post in this 4-part series on coaching, I wrote about the language of coaching, covering the common language of good coaches. As communication is a two-way process, listening is of equal or even greater importance. Mark Twain once said that there's a reason why God gave us two ears and one mouth: so that we could talk less and listen more.

This week, I'm exploring the mechanics of active listening and how coaches can become better listeners to train more effectively. Active listening skills help coaches to identify the heart of a problem and begin to solve them in a little more depth; therefore, it is an essential factor in establishing a positive relationship with the client. To help coaches take proactive steps to improve, 11 members of the Forbes Coaching Council discuss some of the ways in which coaches can improve their active listening skills and how doing so can help them establish a good relationship with their clients. Using listening responses is an effective way for coaches to demonstrate that they understand the client's feelings and thoughts when they participate in a coaching dialogue. During the conversation, responding with “Listening to you, I hear you say” allows the customer to know that they are listening to him and that he is focusing on him.

This gives them an opportunity to clarify their answer if what is being repeated isn't accurate. Becoming an active listener requires you to change your approach to understanding what the person is actually saying. Mayo and Margolis believe that, by meeting these frameworks, most leaders can hone their leadership style and be more effective in their leadership positions. After understanding the speaker's perspectives, it's appropriate for the coach to respond to address concerns and introduce ideas, feelings, and suggestions. It is an invitation for others to listen to you and shows the speaker that the leader cares and cares about what he has to say.

In a way, delegating the communication style can be seen as an improved version of the direct communication style, which would work better for well-coordinated teams. Some identify the communication style of leadership by delegating as the seventh effective way for leaders to communicate, and I will also examine it in depth here, remember to use it cautiously. While this leadership communication style won't be active all the time, it will be essential to helping employees master new skills and improve their performance. Considering that Prossak, DiResta and Moore emphasize the ability to adapt to each situation and each employee as essential to improving leaders' communication styles, there is no reason to fear or resist this step. We'll provide you with a list of the best communication styles for effective leaders and we'll continue to identify some of the best practices for developing your own leadership communication style. When I spoke with Moore about communication styles in terms of leadership, he raised the idea that ego (or lack thereof) is essential to this end.

According to Diane DiResta, a workplace communication consultant and author, effective leaders should focus on using various communication styles to interact with employees, partners and customers. Paying attention to both factors will help the leader understand how to interpret the meaning, inferences and implications of the message for the future. Many traditional authoritarian leaders strive to leave time and space for others to express their ideas. A key way for coaches to develop active listening skills is to first develop curiosity on behalf of the client. It's about listening to the topics of their thinking and the patterns of their behavior that may or may not be useful to them. In conclusion, executive coaches have an important role in helping leaders become better listeners and communicators.

By developing active listening skills such as using listening responses and demonstrating curiosity towards clients' thoughts and feelings, coaches can create a positive relationship with their clients while helping them hone their leadership style. Additionally, understanding different communication styles such as direct or delegated can help leaders become more effective in their positions.