When was the last time you had a heart-to-heart talk with your team member? When things go bad at work, do you take the time to sit down with an employee and listen to his concerns? Or do you swiftly pass judgment and brush off the issue?
Many managers are led to believe that courage is equated to speaking and dominating a conversation. They just delegate with no regard when delegation can be done effectively. This leads to disgruntled employees.
However, let us not forget what Sir Winston Churchill said—that courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
This happens because many managers never went through training. They did well in their job as an individual contributor, and when they got a promotion, they expect their subordinates to do well as they did.
This can be corrected, of course, given the proper guidance.
The Definition of Listening
In the office, we deal with dozens of issues everyday. On top of our deliverables, we have a lot of administrative work to do and things to manage. Managers have their plates full most of the time that they forget to listen to what their employees need.
In many round tables or brainstorming sessions, it is not uncommon for bosses to shoot down people’s ideas because they want to get things done their way. Little do they realize that listening as a manager is the first step to wisdom and it is also a sign of effective leadership, which has subtle differences from management. But how does one manager effectively listen and understand?
Listening is an art. It is an art when it is done well with the aim of achieving a win-win situation between all parties involved. Listening is a part of good communication skills; this is the best way to develop mutual trust and respect and it fosters an atmosphere of affirmation and interest. To be effective leaders, we must learn to communicate two-way—one of which talking and the other is through listening.
The Process of Listening
When talking to an employee, it is necessary that you take down notes. This is not for the purpose of show but to ensure that you remember. You do not want to miss the important details of what your employee is telling you. You need to repeat the information you heard and validate. Confirm if your understanding of the issue is correct.
If the employee says otherwise, it will not hurt if you ask him to repeat what he said. Only then will the two of you come to the same page. If there is something vague, do not assume that you understood what the person is trying to say. Always remain curious and ask for clarification.
If you have a question, do not interrupt. Ask the speaker if you may say something or write it down and ask your question later on. Your team member will definitely give you a chance to speak. If the discussion is about something sensitive and your employee is being emotional, do not match his anger or frustration with yours.
Keep in mind that you need to be both mentally and physically present. Your eyes should meet the speaker’s and you need to nod to from time to time to show interest.
The Benefits of Listening
As a leader, you can benefit a lot from sitting down with your employee and listening to his issues. First off, you discover things. You have to realize that you are always away from the front lines and you may have little understanding of the daily goings-on in the workplace.
Listening to your employees will enlighten you and will make you reconsider some decisions you made in the past. You will be able to make better decisions because you are armed with information. The things that you heard will give you a different perspective of what you need to get done. It will show things to you in a new light and will clear your head in case you are confused.
Your employees will appreciate you if you listen. They will be thankful to you for finding time to listen to them amidst your busy schedule. At the end of the day, it is always going to be a win-win situation for you.
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