LISTEN UP . . .
As you start managing other team members, or begin leading larger groups, there can be a certain pressure to prove yourself by having an answer for everything. Why else were you hired or promoted if not for your great ideas?
But there’s the trap. Because when you’re talking, you’re not listening. And when you’re not listening, you’re not taking in new information and learning. The most effective managers tend to listen more than they talk because that’s where the new insights live.
Listening at all levels
Company CEOs often launch “listening tours” when they take on a new post to get the inside scoop from the frontlines. When you are still climbing the ladder, however, it takes confidence and self-discipline to step back and listen rather than charging ahead with ideas you hope will get you noticed.
But real listening may help you uncover new ideas and innovative solutions that will make you and your team shine. It also demonstrates respect and interest in others and provides a critical avenue for gaining feedback on your own performance.
So, good to go, right? Well, although listening is a natural ability, it’s not necessarily a natural skill. It requires intention. Here are some great first steps to becoming a better listener — and more effective manager. As a bonus, relationships with your spouse, children and friends may improve too.
“Do” listening the way you perform more obviously active tasks. Remove distractions and focus. You can’t listen while browsing emails, cleaning up your desk or rushing to your next meeting.
Put your body into it. Start with eye contact, align your body with those you’re listening to, lean forward, adopt an open and welcoming posture, nod and use short phrases that show you are engaged.
Open (and quiet) your mind. Personal biases and preconceived ideas can lead to hearing only what you want to hear and missing great stuff that will inspire new thoughts. Intentionally quiet and open your mind first.
Paraphrase and ask questions. Let the person express thoughts fully before jumping in and then ask questions to clarify your understanding. You can paraphrase in your own words to make sure you are getting it right.
Value others. You probably turn your listening skills up to high gear with your boss. Dial into that same intensity when listening to colleagues and direct reports. Ask open-ended questions that allow others to bring the fullness of their thinking to the situation.
Show and train. Set the example for your team and then fine-tune your listening skills together. Include listening skills in employee evaluations and step in during meetings as needed to foster better listening.
A workplace study by Siemens found that employees spend 17 hours every week just clarifying communication issues and breakdowns between peers, leadership and customers! Intentional, focused listening is a great way increase your professional impact, stop problems before they grow and uncover novel approaches to driving better performance.