When you’re caught up in the daily hustle and bustle of your business, you may be tempted to quickly dismiss your employees when they come to you with questions or concerns.
But beware, if you routinely rush through conversations or give employees the cold shoulder, they’ll feel disrespected. And they’ll be less likely to respect your leadership.
The development of good listening skills is one of the most efficient methods for becoming a great manager and leader.
Here are four tips that can help you hone your leadership listening skills.
Show interest, concern
The first step in increasing your leadership listening skills is to learn how to connect with your team. To be able to listen, you must first be interested in your employees.
Don’t mistake hearing for listening. Listening means you gather the facts, and also seek to understand the emotions and unspoken feelings attached to what you’re discussing. Paying full attention requires follow-up questions to make sure you fully understand the whole picture.
People open up and are more honest when they feel their manager cares about them and the issue at hand.
This doesn’t mean you have to drop everything any time an employee needs to talk about something. If someone comes to you 10 minutes before your next meeting, simply say so. If a short conversation is needed, ask them to walk with you for the 5 minutes it will take for you to get there.
It shows concern if you say, “You’re right. We need to find a way to resolve this. I don’t want to rush our conversation. Find a time on my calendar and block out an hour so you can have my undivided attention during our conversation.”
If a longer discussion is required and you’re fully booked, offer to stay late or come in early to meet with him or her. All of these tips will help you enhance your leadership listening skills and foster open communication.
Give undivided attention
Ever been to a party where the person you’re speaking to constantly looks around the room and doesn’t make eye contact? It likely made you feel like they were looking for someone better to talk to.
Don’t make your employees feel that way when they come to you with problems.
Mute your phone and email alerts, and don’t check your computer while the other person is talking, unless you need to look up materials relevant to the discussion. Don’t doodle or tap your pen.
By giving your full attention to your employee, you not only convey that you care, you also give yourself the ability to concentrate – both important leadership listening skills.
This means if Margo tells you about a problem in your shipping department, you not only understand the superficial message she is trying to get across, but you also recognize the emotions of hopelessness, frustration or even anger in her voice.
Mirror, clarify and empathize
People identify with and trust those who look and sound like they do. That’s where the technique of “mirroring” helps you build rapport. Lean in, make eye contact, take notes, and repeat back what the person says.
An example of mirroring might be: “What I hear you saying is that Mike’s failure to follow the report template creates extra work for you. Is that correct?”
Follow-up questions help you gain a better understanding as well as help you resolve the issue more quickly. Other questions include:
- Do you have a solution in mind?
- Do you want me to do anything or do you just need to vent?
- How is this impacting your productivity?
If employees know you will ask in-depth questions, they’re more likely to prepare evidence and potential solutions before coming to you. This helps mitigate employees who want to dump and run rather than work through a problem.
Dial back the drama
Once an employee is frustrated enough to bring a problem to you, emotions may be running high. Don’t encourage hearsay or he said, she said conversations.
During emotional conversations, it helps calm and focus your employee when you ask targeted questions that require concrete answers. Examples of questions to ask include:
- When did you first recognize this happening?
- How often does this occur?
- How much extra time are you having to spend on this?
- What other tasks are not getting done due to this problem?
Throughout your discussion, use your leadership listening skills to focus on the facts and redirect the person’s attention back to specifics. Again, mirror the problem back to the employee.
“I hear the frustration in your voice, but I need more details to understand what’s really going on.” Listen, repeat back what you hear and listen some more.
Often employees identify symptoms and not a problem’s root cause. By developing your listening skills, you can become the manager that gets to the bottom of business problems and makes the workplace run more smoothly.
The Insperity guide to leadership and management provides even more tips and techniques for developing leaders. Download your free copy today.