In the heart of a fast growing company, one of the most important factors for success is clear, concise communication. In the rush to get things done, though, it’s easy to push too hard and not stop to listen to the needs of your team.
Active listening is not about ticking another box on your to do list. It’s about opening up and engaging with those around you in mindful communication. It’s about using all of your senses to focus on what’s being said. It’s about respecting and appreciating the input you receive.
In the rush of a busy workday, it’s easy to skip these steps, hurrying people to “get to the point” and move on to the next item on your list. But with the right approach to active listening you can be a better manager and encourage a more robust, enthusiastically engaged team.
Focus on The Person in Front of You
Step one in good active listening is to pay attention to the person with which you are speaking. It sounds simple, but in the age of constant connection and ample distractions, it’s easy to get lost in your inbox or check notifications on your phone mid-meeting. Even a flick of the eyes to one of your devices can send a loud signal that you’re not fully engaged in the conversation.
How do you fix this?
It starts with the visible things you do in a conversation:
- Don’t have a meeting when distracted. If you don’t trust yourself to be engaged, reschedule. It’s better to put off your meeting than to have it and spend the entire time distracted by other concerns.
- Lock away potential distractions. Your cell phone is enemy number one in private meetings. Turn it off or silence it and put it out of sight, in a drawer or behind your desk. If you have a smart watch, silence it, and turn off your computer monitor.
- Make eye contact and respond to their input. Make eye contact when appropriate and respond to what they are saying. Verbal cues, a nod of the head or shows of empathy when they vent their frustrations show that you are listening.
The goal of one-on-one meetings is to understand the emotional state and needs of the other party. Open up and focus on what they are saying – whether it’s immensely frustrating or even just a little boring. Put your filters to the side and try to put yourself in their shoes.
Do You Really Understand?
Nothing is worse than to feel like a conversation is going well with your boss, only to realize that the other party doesn’t get it. To avoid misinterpreting, pause during your meetings to confirm and clarify key points.
Always ask for clarification if you are unsure, and periodically paraphrase to confirm what you are hearing and interpreting from what they are saying.
Most importantly, don’t judge or interrupt them when they are expressing their feelings in these meetings. Always let them finish before asking questions or presenting counter arguments (if there is a disagreement). For a lot of managers, especially in startup environments where things move a mile a minute, it’s important to slow down and let the conversation pace to the comfort level of the other person. Don’t rush them to a conclusion or put words in their mouth if you grow impatient.
Active Listening Can Change Relationships in the Workplace
While the goal of active listening is to make the other party feel heard and better engaged, it also helps you to better understand the people on your team. You’ll become more engaged in conversations, offer solutions that are relevant to the other party, and learn to temper your opinions and suggestions to the needs of the other party.
If you want to get the most out of your conversations, really comprehend what is being said by your team, and build rapport that has a positive impact on performance, active listening exercises are a great place to start.
To learn more, download our Guide with Tips for Better, More Insightful One-on-Ones. In it, you’ll learn how to get more out of your conversations, make sure others feel heard, and express your opinions and suggestions in line with the needs of others.