Leadership in business has changed dramatically over the past few years. It is more inclusive, strategic and “emotionally intelligent” than ever before. Often called High Performing Leadership (HPL) , it’s a popular style because it produces results. High performing leaders are able to accomplish what every leader wants: “To inspire others to follow them to places they might not ordinarily go.”
Naturally, when a team is willing to try new ways of operating, using technology, listening to customers, or communicating, a company stays ahead of its competition and exceeds its financial, process, and people goals.
Many people devote years to becoming a nuanced, skilled leader who is able to handle any situation with grace.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to take you that long.
There are two (2) traits I’ve found that all High Performance Leaders have in common.
If you are able to honestly self-assess how well you do these already, and are open to practicing them (even just a small amount) on a regular basis, you’ll be well on your way to being the kind of leader your team enjoys following. You’ll have more motivated, results-oriented employees, and exceptionally satisfied customers.
It’s without hesitation that I say these two skills can significantly increase job-satisfaction, teamwork, efficacy, and the bottom line.
Here’s the catch: they’re so simple, you might be tempted to ignore them. Or brush them off because you’ve heard them before. But don’t underestimate the power of these two skills.
So what are they?
High Performance Leadership Skill #1: 
Active Listening
At its simplest, active listening is a set of skills which demonstrate that you understand the content and the emotion of another’s message.
At its most elegant, active listening makes another person feel seen, heard, and “psychologically safe” — all of which are essential for motivating others. In addition, this skill can often de-escalate an increasingly tense situation.
High Performance Leaders approach their conversations through the filter of active listening because it helps everyone involved.
It helps you to:
  • clarify the information you’re getting
  • prevent an overload of information
  • guide the speaker quickly to the real need or interest
  • understand the speakers’ needs or interests
  • “buy time” while deciding how to respond
  • defuse the speaker’s emotionality
  • allow the speaker to feel heard and build rapport
And it helps the one you’re in conversation with to feel heard and accepted in the interaction.
So what’s included in active listening skills?
It’s time for an assessment.
Below, I’ve listed the skills that make for an effective active listener. Circle the option that you feel best represents you. Try to be honest with yourself here, no matter how much it makes you cringe. True leaders become that way because they are willing to acknowledge their weaknesses, and work on them.
1. I use my own words to repeat back what I heard, rather than parroting back exactly what I heard.
Never    Sometimes     Often    Always
2. I hold off on stating my viewpoint.
Never    Sometimes    Often    Always
3. I look for the essential meaning of what’s being said.
Never    Sometimes    Often    Always
4. I look for the essential emotion of what’s being said..
Never    Sometimes    Often    Always
5. I briefly paraphrase back what I heard.
Never    Sometimes    Often    Always
If you answered never or sometimes on two (2) or more of these, and you’d like to become a better listener, you can improve by communicating using the five behaviors mentioned above. You may also want to find a mentor, colleague, or coach to help you practice these behaviors in a safe environment, using real life examples and role-playing.
In next month’s newsletter, I’ll dive into the second high performance leadership skill. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you thought of part one, and you can head here to subscribe and receive part two of this article as well as your free copy of my new guide, “Grow Your Company and Culture, with TEAMS”.