Just Try Listening More


I received an email last week from a company promoting 5 ways to communicate to employees.  I was caught by the title and promise of something new and wonderful.  Way down this very long email I found the 5 ways, and sadly nothing new popped up.

What I found interesting though was the direction of these targeted communication tips, each devising a reason to approach employees.  It suggested things like recognition, setting goals and giving employees company updates.  Note the direction of the communication is one way from manager to employee.

I must be old school, but I define communication as a two-way conversation.  Silly me!  I don’t see the need to train managers how to talk as much as how to listen and respond like you are listening!  Don’t get me wrong, it is good to communicate news to your team, but not all communication needs to be this direction.

My general practice as a manager has always been one of “checking in” with staff, or asking probing questions that get the employee to open up.  I find that when I don’t have an agenda, I am less likely to talk and then walk.  I instead learn more when I listen.

I am one of those odd duck managers that share the leader role at meetings.  If I’m not playing moderator all the time, I allow myself the ability to listen and watch for those subtle body language communications.  If I pick up on something I could add value to I communicate my opinion, but for the most part I think managers create a better climate for communication when they listen first.

One other thought that comes to mind worth consideration is the need to allow people time to think and respond.  I was on a conference call a few weeks back when the moderator asked what other issues need to be discussed.  It wasn’t three seconds later that he said, “Oh I have one more thing I need to tell you.”  Friends, my mind doesn’t process that fast and I bet your brain doesn’t either.  When you spring on your audience something new, please give it about 10-seconds before you change to a different topic.  This gives people time to think and formulate a response.

I would encourage you in the next week to look for ways to listen more, and then add a comment below on what you learned from this experiment and how it opened up better communications.

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