Active Listening

Active Listening: One of the Most Important Manager Skills

With 4 Great Tips on How to Improve Active Listening Skills

Listening is the simplest “soft” skill that a manager can have, but it may have the most impact. Workplace communication is the key to understanding your people and your organization. Often, the difference between success and failure will be determined by if your employees feel comfortable talking to you and if you listen to what they say. To ensure that your employees communicate, be an active listener.

“The human brain discloses information in layers, therefore our questions should match this biology.”

The Science of Selling by David Hoffeld

4 Tips to Improve Your Active Listening Skills

  1. Ask Questions. Questions are a fantastic way to show people that you’re listening. When you ask a question, people see you as engaged in the conversation. Ask “what” and “how” questions to expand the conversation and get at the root of the topic. But be careful to never ask a question that the person has already addressed. And, try to avoid “why” questions unless absolutely necessary. People get defensive when they are asked to justify something.
  2. Maintain Eye Contact and Positive Posture. Eye contact is essential to show that you’re actively listening. According to Michigan State University, eye contact shows that you’re alert and interested in the conversation. Body posture is just as important. Sit up straight, keep your hands uncrossed, and don’t fidget.
  3. Use Visual and Verbal Cues. In addition to the cues you give with proper eye contact and body posture, don’t forget to be active in the conversation. Positive visual cues include nodding your head and smiling. They’ll put the speaker at ease and assure them that you’re listening. Likewise, use simple phrases like “right” and “go on” to encourage the person to keep talking.
  4. Paraphrase, Summarize, and Clarify. Paraphrasing and summarization are perfect to show that you’ve been listening after the speaker is done with a particular point. Something like, “What I’m hearing you say is…” shows the speaker that you’ve processed their information and gives them a chance to clarify their meaning. But, clarification goes both ways. If you aren’t quite sure about what the speaker means, then get some clarification by using Tip #1! Asking questions is the best way to make sure you understand everything.

Active listening can go a long way to help your business run smoothly. Not only will your team members trust you to communicate, but active listening will trickle down your organization. In due time, you’ll find that your team will actively listen to customers more. And, customers love to be listened to!

Keep it Simple. Keep it Focused. Definitely Keep it Inspiring! -Steve

As always, check out my other blog posts for even more great manager-coaching tips!

Flight Crew in Cockpit

Managers – Build a Culture Like an Aviation Flight Crew

4 Best Practices to Safely Land Your Business Plane in 2019

Analysis of many commercial flight disasters concludes that faulty communication between the flight crew and captain, not mechanical failure, led to tragedy.  In other words, first officers and flight engineers had critical information of concern but failed to communicate that information in a direct and effective manner. CRM (crew resource management), in part, aims to train flight crews to assertively and respectfully speak up when they possess critical data. Averting disaster is achieved at the intersection of quality communications, leadership, and decision-making.

Managers, like flight captains, need to create psychologically safe environments that encourage reps to share real time data and concerns. In a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world, a rich flow of relevant information enables collective sensemaking to occur.

“Business agility is creating a learning organization this is faster and better at learning about themselves and their customers.”

-Jason Bloomberg (Forbes)

Managers – Create a CRM-like work culture by implementing these 4 best practices

  1. Problems First, Solution Forward Meetings. You’ve hired smart people, right? One-on-ones and team meetings should leverage people’s intelligence by solving significant problems. Top of agenda should always be – What are you seeing? What are your challenges? Where are the opportunities? What aren’t we talking about that we should be? What solutions will move positive action forward?
  2. Establish Collaborative Learning as a Core Value. Humble leaders understand that none of us is as smart as all of us. Continuous learning, together, is espoused as a competitive business strategy, not a nice to have cultural element. Agile managers models and embodies a “we” oriented team culture.
  3. Teach and Coach Effective Communication Skills. This is a primary goal of CRM training. Team members learn how to respectively and effectively “speak up” to the chain of command. This isn’t easy for most team members. Leaders recognize that their formal authority often impedes candid feedback. Therefore, ongoing coaching and reinforcement feedback is a preferred management style.
  4. Develop a Tolerance for Failure.  Unlike commercial aviation, a failure in the business world rarely leads to tragedy. Effective managers who reframe failures into forward-learning events foster a team of agile learners.

A fast paced and complex marketplace demands that managers create a feedback-rich work environment where reality is being openly and accurately discussed. Flawed communication may not result in tragedy at work, unlike on an airplane, but it can be the deciding factor between success and failure. Managers who think like successful flight captains greatly increase their chances of landing the plane safely!

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring.

Check out our other blog posts too!