In order to be totally focused on listening to others, it is critical for managers to be truly present in the conversation. Remove that tablet, turn off your phone or even better, have it out of sight. Be conscious of keeping eye contact and don’t allow for others to interrupt you (your boss) and break the concentration and commitment you’ve made to them, writes Mark LeBusque
“We must learn to listen to what is being said and not hear what we want to hear.” ― Rhonda Gales
‘Listen to me’ are three words I’ve heard mainly coming from the mouths of my managers or me as a manager. I’ve often wondered what would happen if the tables were turned here and the managers truly started to embrace the power that comes from listening to their team members.
What do you think might happen?
So how can you harness the power of listening to ensure that those in your care feel like they belong, are heard and play an important role in the success of the team?
It’s never too late to become a great listener and there’s a lot of power in sharing with your team that you are focusing on becoming better at ‘listening and learning’
Here’s my approach that I outline in my first book ‘Being Human – Why Robots Are Not The Answer to Business Success’ in the section I refer to as ‘Listen and Learn’.
Shut up and listen
The first rule is to ‘shut up and listen’ and realise that even though you are the manager, it’s not all about you! Now this can be easier said than done, as many managers have been conditioned that success comes from their incredible knowledge and the ability to articulate this into a winning strategy. In some way, being a manager gives you a license to fill the space with your next brilliant idea. Here’s a great question to ask yourself when you feel like filling the space: “I wonder what would happen if I just listened for the whole meeting?” Give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised about how much you learn.
Silence as a tool
Another reason that managers talk, talk, talk is because silence is uncomfortable for them. Great managers have learned how to use silence as an incredible tool to leave space to allow others to be listened to. I can remember a time where I sat in silence with a team for over seven very awkward minutes to allow room for others to be heard. Nobody spoke for seven minutes. You could hear hearts beating at a quicker rate if you listened carefully. It was a challenge to do this but it allowed for a fantastic conversation on how to use the power of silence and that even five seconds of silence leaves room for others to find their voice and be listened to. Hold your nerve and reap the results.
“The word ‘listen’ contains the same letters as the word ‘silent’.” ― Alfred Brendel
Creating formal time and space for listening skills to develop will ensure that your team members will know that you consider the skill of listening as an important part of not only your role, but also theirs. Even 30 minutes a week to share stories, explore common interests and differences and undertake what evolutionary psychologist, Robin Dunbar refers to as social chit-chat. It’s a great way to kill two birds with one stone by deepening connection through listening to each other. Now there’s a powerful way to use listening right there.
In order to be totally focused on listening to others, it is critical for managers to be truly present in the conversation. Remove that tablet, turn off your phone or even better, have it out of sight. Be conscious of keeping eye contact and don’t allow for others to interrupt you (your boss) and break the concentration and commitment you’ve made to them. If it is done remotely as we are finding in the world of COVID, be sure that if you are furiously banging away on your keyboard, it will be a sign to your team member that it’s your time, not theirs.
It’s never too late
Finally, there’s a myth that you can’t teach old dogs (or managers) new tricks. This is just that – a myth. It’s never too late to become a great listener and there’s a lot of power in sharing with your team that you are focusing on becoming better at ‘listening and learning’ in order to help you, them and the team be more successful. It may mean you have to swallow some pride but that initial sting will quickly go away as the power of listening becomes evident in your team. Fess up and become more human. Your team will appreciate this.
Listen and learn – it’s a powerful way to become a more human manager.
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