Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Listening Skills Are Crucial

I sat at my desk watching a video on my computer. As the video played I cracked open a book to read while the video played. I would then switch my attention between the video and book over the next 10 minutes. At that moment I had to laugh to myself because I was guilty of poor listening. I wasn't giving the video the attention it needed to enjoy it completely. Listening is a skill that so many leaders are told they need to improve and yet have difficulty mastering. I wasn't listening to a video now think about not listening to a person, we've all been there before,

An employee approaches their leader to discuss a current issue hoping for an immediate resolution. The discussion starts off strong but then the leader's phone rings and they look to see who's calling. The leader apologizes for the distraction and asks the employee to continue. Another minute into the conversation you notice the leader looking at their computer hoping to see what that darn e-mail says. When the leader sees the employee getting frustrated they turn towards the employee trying to listen, but starts yawning, looking away, or day dreaming as they stare at the employee with a hypnotized look. The employee then walks away in frustration knowing that leader heard maybe a minute of their conversation.

I know I'm guilty of not listening to an employee that reported to me like in the example above. That employee lost confidence in me as a leader, feeling irritated, frustrated, and not important. That's why listening completely is crucial for leadership. Listening helps build confidence, makes people feel good, motivates, increases job satisfaction, and increases self-worth.

Some tips that has helped me be a better listener are,
  • Keep Eye Contact
  • Ask questions about topics pertaining to the conversation
  • Keep an open posture. Make the person feel you are approachable
  • Avoid looking at a ringing phone or the computer while in conversation
  • Offer possible resolutions when asked
  • Offer follow up to see the progress made from these suggested resolutions

Listening takes discipline and is a learned skill, especially with all the possible distractions in an office. It requires that the leader focuses all of their attention to the conversation. Committing to this kind of focus and listening increases a leader's effectiveness and can make them feel good about the job they're doing.

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