It’s human nature to want to know that when you’re telling someone something, they’re listening to you and taking your points on board. This is particularly true when it involves your job. As a manager, you have significant influence over whether your team members will enjoy their work and the environment in which they work in. Central to this is an ability to show that you are a good listener, picking up on strengths, interests and problems and responding to feedback. With research indicating that we remember 25-50% of what we hear, it seems fair to suggest that most of us could probably do more to improve. Managers are no exception!
How can I become a better listener?
The best way in which to improve your listening skills is to practice ‘active listening’. This means fully taking on board what another person is saying and trying to understand properly the key points they are trying to put across. There are some simple and very effective ways of doing this:
• Put all your devices to one side: not only is it rude to be engaged in an email or text conversation whilst someone is trying to talk to you, it is also very unlikely that you will take on board anything they are trying to tell you. It will make your team member feel incredibly undervalued and de-motivated to try talking to you again in future.
• Find an empty room or space in which to talk: using a space away from your or your team member’s main working area helps to neutralize the environment and enable your team member to speak more freely. It also minimizes the possibility of you becoming distracted by things like a computer screen or interruptions.
• Show that you are listening through non-verbal cues: this includes things like proper eye contact, appropriate gestures and facial expressions and, when you do talk, using a suitable tone of voice.
• Wait for your team member to finish everything they want to say before responding: once they have finished, paraphrase what you’ve been told to check you’ve understood correctly. this will not only ensure that there are no misunderstandings, but also that your team member will feel valued and that you are taking their points seriously.
• Be aware of body language: listening does not always mean paying attention to what someone is saying verbally, but also to what they’re saying through their body language. For example, whether someone is feeling positive or not will come through in things like their posture, eye contact, facial expressions and behavior.
Above all else, being an effective listening means having a genuine desire to listen actively to others and respond constructively. Without this desire, your listening skills as a manager - and effectiveness as a manager overall - will always be limited.