How good do you think you are at actually listening to someone? We have all been in a situation where we’ve listened to a conversation and leave with a completely different understanding to the other person of what has just been said. Research shows we only remember around 25%-50% of what we hear when someone is speaking to us. Which means when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse for 10 minutes, they’re only going to remember half of the conversation. The same works in reverse – when you’re given directions, or being presented with information, you’re only processing half the message. While the important bits of information may be in the half you remember, the likelihood is – they’re not .
This is a big contributor to a disturbing trend. Particularly among managers, trying to interpret what an employee says, instead of hearing what the employee actually said. In other words, it’s a common ailment, and something that plagues many people in their professional and personal lives, often leading to disagreements and misunderstandings. This obviously isn’t good for business, or for manager-employee relationships. So today, we wanted to explore the the value of teaching active listening as a skill, and what difference it can make to your business.
What Is Active Listening?
Active listening is a fairly simple concept. It’s the process of actively listening to what is being said during a conversation. The listener is required to fully concentrate, understand, respond to and then remember what is being said. It helps you take in all of the information in a conversation (instead of half), and ensures you have a full and complete understanding of the point being made before you move on. Sounds simple, but it’s a skill, and it does take practice and dedication to do properly – especially in a management situation. The best thing to do is learn the skill, and then exercise it like a muscle.
Can Active Listening Make You A Better Leader?
A good manager needs to be a good leader, which is a skill in itself. Learning how to become an active listener helps managers become good leaders, boost productivity and improve the relationships between them and their employees. A few ways effective listening can do this include:
Showing That You Care: When a manager cares about their employees, they tend to work harder and aim to exceed management expectations. This is because employees want to be led by people who genuinely care about who they are and what they represent to the team and the business as a whole. They don’t want to be led by managers who just view them as tools and labour. Active listening not only shows that you care about what the employee is saying – it will also give you more information to build good relationships on.
Empathy: Modern workplaces are full of stress, and everyone manages these stresses in different ways. Often people will assume others deal with stress in the same way as them, which can lead to a lot of tension. But this isn’t the case, and managers who make this assumption can risk becoming closed off to their employees. Active listening is a powerful show of empathy, and can make all the difference when helping employees manage difficult stressful situations.
Non-Judgement: If you’re judging someone else while they are talking, then you aren’t really listening. Different styles or approaches can be met with harsh criticism, often before the actual approach has really been explained or expanded upon. Modern managers need to embrace new ideas and be ready to adapt and change – which means listening and understanding fully when new ideas are expressed, without pre-judgement.
Mindful Leadership: Good leaders are very mindful of their surroundings. They understand that not all communication is verbal, and there is value in non-verbal communication as well. They acknowledge others through body language, facial expressions and nods. Are tuned in to the dynamics around them and understand it all. Above all, they aren’t just listening to conversations – they’re hearing them in full, taking in what is being said and how people are saying it.
Encourage Two-Way Dialogue: How many times has your manager interrupted your train of thought? It’s a frighteningly common occurrence, and it’s pretty rude as well. Compassionate leaders don’t interrupt the flow of dialogue – they encourage and embrace two-way communication and are aware that with every interruption they make comes disengagement and confusion. When a manager refrains from interrupting, they are likely to hear and understand the entire point being made, not just part of it.
All of these behaviours don’t just have benefits in listening and management – they have the power to positively impact other areas of your business as well.
Of course, teaching managers to listen to what is being said – not what they think is being said, is only one step on the journey to creating great leaders. But it’s a simple one and effective one to resolve. If successful it can improve the working environment for everyone they interact with, leading to happier and more engaged employees across the organisation.
If you would like to find out more about improving feedback and helping your staff to be active listeners, get in touch to find out how WorkInConfidence total involvement tools can help you achieve this.