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Research tells us that as a society, we aren’t such great listeners. Too often, we’re so focused on what we’re going to say next that we don’t take the time to really hear what others have to tell us. As a business leader, though, being a good listener can have a variety of benefits, such as helping you hone in on important issues and find solutions to problems.

Start a dialogue by asking your employees regularly, ‘What do you think?” It’s a great way to start a conversation! Without realizing it, your sincere engagement and honest listening could pay off in a solid, productive exchange. A second way to become a better listener is to get to know your employees. How well do you really know the people who work for you? You know the saying that everyone has a story? It’s true! One of the most important things you can do with your employees is to take the time to get to know them and their unique life stories. People who feel their managers know, understand and listen to them often will work harder and exhibit greater loyalty not only to their teams but their companies as well.

Your mastery of the lost art of listening also can make others eager to hear what you have to say. Respect begets respect. If you give people the chance to speak and truly be heard, they more likely will give you the same opportunity. One of the great things about learning how to listen is that people are more likely to listen to you.

Don’t think your listening skills need any improvement? Try keeping track of how much time you spend asking questions and listening during the next several meetings with employees and how much time you spend talking. The goal: To spend as much time — or more time — listening as you do talking.