June 21, 2011 | Barb Carr

Career Development: How to Be a Better Listener

Some managers believe that listening is not an important skill … that it’s a given and anyone can do it. However, improving this skill is essential to reducing employee turnover, gaining respect from employees and increasing productivity in the office.  Listening to your employees should be a manager’s #1 task.  After all, employees are the ones who represent the company brand, execute the company strategy and build the company.  Every company depends on management’s listening skills.

Here are three ways to become a better listener:

Get Out of Your Office: Make a point to take a few minutes occasionally to ask your employees how they are doing, how their workload is and if they have any ideas to discuss.  Make yourself approachable so that you do not hear about problems after they have already blown up, and so you get the facts first hand.

Acknowledge What You Hear: Acknowledge feedback in a non-judgmental way.  This doesn’t mean decisions or changes need to be made immediately.  Paraphrase or rephrase what has been said before you respond.  Don’t ignore what an employee is saying simply because you do not agree with it.  “I hear what you’re saying and I’ll take this into consideration” goes a long way sometimes.

Don’t Interrupt: When you interrupt, you make the speaker feel like what he thinks is not important.  Make eye contact and use affirmative body language.  If necessary, write down any questions you have while someone is talking so that you can ask for clarification after he is finished.  Encourage the speaker to continue by saying, “I just want to make a quick note to follow-up what you are saying, but please continue your thought.”

Everyone enjoys working at a company where they feel valued.  Improving listening skills is an investment in employee relationships that will improve the company’s work environment and profit.  Earning the trust and respect of your employees is a valued accomplishment.

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