Listening Like A Leader in the Fire Service in 6 Steps

There are so many skills that a leader needs to encompass to be successful, one of those skills is listening. Everyone listens everyday so you may not realize there is an art to leadership you will need to master as you work on the firefighter promotion process. 

Listen Like a Leader

  1. Eye Contact

The first thing you need to do when listening to someone whether they’re telling you about their day or having a very serious conversation is to make eye contact. Maintaining eye contact assures 0the other person that you are present and listening to what they say. Eye contact creates a non-verbal connection between you and the person you are talking to. In addition, eye contact will help you notice any non-verbal changes in the other person. For example, if they start to tear up, or they start looking around indicating they are nervous. Eye contact allows you to show the other person you are present and allows you to decode a bit more into what they are saying without them having to say anything. 

  1. Body Movements

Next, when you are talking to someone it is important that you use your body appropriately. You want to be sure you are facing someone when you talk to them, this also makes eye contact much easier. This also shows them you are giving them your full attention. In addition, you can nod along to what they are saying to show you are following along with them without saying anything, which will encourage them to open up and keep talking.  

  1. Don’t Multitask

When someone is speaking to you, you want to give them your full attention no matter what they are talking about. So if someone comes up and asks you to talk and you agree, stop whatever it is you are doing. Put down your phone, stop working on your computer, end your work out and so on. If you are unable to stop what you are doing you should plan to speak at another time so you can give them your full attention, and tell them just that. As a leader in the fire service you will end up doing a lot of listening, and if you want to be a good leader the people below you need to know they are being heard. If you can’t stop what you are doing to listen, they will come to you less and less. 

  1. Do Not Interrupt

One of the most important ways to show someone you are sincerely listening to what they are saying is to just let them talk. Do not stop them because you know what they are going to say or you disagree with what they are saying. Just let them speak to you as they need to. Being constantly interrupted is once again going to disrupt that trust in you and their desire to come to you when needed. A good listener and a good leader simply lets someone speak. 

  1. Summarize What They Say

Another great way to let someone know you are listening and understanding what they are saying is to, when appropriate, summarize what they are saying back to them. Even saying, “I hear that…xyz is happening” or “it sounds like…” when they are done talking literally tells them you heard them. People just want to be heard sometimes and telling them that is what you are doing can be a huge relief, especially if a subordinate comes to you with something that may be difficult or uncomfortable for them. Just tell them you hear them. 

  1. Ask Appropriate Questions

When having a conversation with someone it is also important to ask questions. However, do not interrupt them to do so. When there is a lag in their speech, ask clarifying questions as needed. Asking questions shows you are interested and care about what they are saying. It may also simply be helpful and necessary to you to get all the information you need. Even if you are just talking about someone's weekend plans on the job, showing you care about what they have to say will build trust and strengthen your working relationship. 

The Takeaway

Everyone listens everyday, but do you truly listen? Listening like a leader requires a little bit more effort, but the impact it has makes it worth the extra time. If you practice these techniques, over time, as you move up the ranks in the fire service, they will just become second nature to you just like any other skill you learn.