The McKinsey Quarterly identified the top most neglected skill for senior managers this month. That skill? Listening. The report suggested that this can be a major organizational issue, with vital data and information getting lost. It can also have a negative impact on staff morale. It’s easy to become a better listener if you want to be, and it doesn’t have to take an enormous amount of your time. So we’ve put together a quick list of three tips to help you listen to your people, that you can implement right now
Big organizations are complex machines, and if you want to maximize their efficiency – you’ll want to take advice from all parts of the operation. An “open door” policy may have become a management cliché but enabling people to approach you and share their views and concerns is an essential part of respecting not just them but your company too.
Make sure that information can flow freely around the workplace and don’t hide from tough questions or viewpoints. If you encourage people to share, then you’ll find out all the things you need to know – even if sometimes you’d rather not know. It’s empowering to have the facts at hand to inform decision making. It’s even better when you can head disaster off at the pass because people bring your problems early, rather than too late.
Not completely of course, but when you’re listening. Listen. Senior executives tend to be naturally garrulous people who are used to voicing their opinions and having others listen to them. When you’re taking the role of listener – you should be talking much less. In fact a good rule of thumb is to let the person speaking to you have about 80% of the air time.
When you are talking you should be reflecting back the content, letting the speaker know that you’ve understood what they have to say.
Don’t ask questions for the sake of them, but do challenge assumptions and find out what the underlying causes for concern are. It’s important to ask questions because it also demonstrates that you are focused on the message being delivered. After all if you aren’t listening you won’t be able to add anything of value to the conversation will you?
If you’re concerned that your listening skills aren’t 100% and you’d like to improve on them further, it’s a good idea to engage with a communications coach. A coach can help you focus on the problem in hand and offer a range of mechanisms to improve your listening techniques. Senior managers who are great listeners find themselves trusted and respected throughout their organization. They also find themselves better informed to make the right decisions more often.