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We probably all remember that one person, who looking back was a great manager. If we wrote down a list of the behaviours and attributes that stood out for us, it would probably be quite random and might not even make much sense. However, it’s more than likely that one of the things you noted was something to do with them being a good listener.

Creating a positive working environment

According to research, being a good listener is a sign of emotional maturity and sound communication skills, which are key for being an effective manager. Because if you have good listening skills, it’s easier to build strong relationships with your staff, boost engagement and create a more positive working environment.

So, what is it about listening that makes it such an important skill for a manager to have? Essentially to lead a team, you need to be able to motivate them. To do this effectively you need to understand them, what makes them tick, what they enjoy, what they don’t enjoy and of course be willing and to hear and act on fresh insight and suggestions. Listening is also an act of empathy – as a manager you need this as well as other soft skills to be able to interact with colleagues, solve problems, and manage your work effectively.

The right perspective

We’ve all come across those eager beaver managers who offer help before understanding the situation fully. They are so keen to be involved that they look for a solution usually before the other person has finished talking, or interrupt with their own thoughts and are generally unwilling to see things from another perspective other than their own.

If this sounds familiar, then that is when serious business problems can occur. When a manager is too focused on themselves and their ideas, they only hear part of what they are being told. And because we think quicker than we talk, they are often distracted by other things and can interpret what other people through the lens of our own experiences, knowledge and background.

Top tips to improve your listening skills

If this is the case, a manager might have a scenario in their head, which bears no resemblance to what the other person is saying. This can lead to serious issues, combined with a lack of trust and respect in workplace relationships. So, what can managers do to improve their listening skills, and in turn their managerial skills? Here are a few top tips:

  1. Shut up – Show people that what they are saying is important by letting them finish speaking. Don’t interrupt or start thinking about your own responses.
  2. Remove preconceptions – See the world through their eyes not your own. Try to comprehend their emotions and avoid any obvious non-verbal signals that show them you have already formed an opinion.
  3. Observe – Demonstrate you are really listening by displaying positive body language, eye contact, nodding, smiling etc. Remember to observe their body language too, this will help you to understand them better.
  4. Summarise the situation – Repeat what they have told you to ensure what you heard is correct. It will show them that you have listened and have accurately interpreted the situation.
  5. Bigger picture – Ask open questions, this will help them feel comfortable and confident about the circumstances and/or their ideas. It will also indicate you are in listening mode, rather than rushing in to provide the answer, give the solution, or take on the challenge.

It’s important to remember that being curious is good. Your experiences of life will be very different to other people’s. It’s only by listening to your staff/teams, and truly understanding what they are saying, that you can expand your perspective, as well as your own knowledge. Not only does listening maintain harmony and motivation, but it can also push the business forwards, thanks to the addition of different opinions, as well as new and often innovative ideas.

How can we help?

At ActifHR we can help your managers to become better listeners. Contact caroline.robertso