When your employees talk, you should listen. As their manager, getting firsthand information from the people closest to the work is extremely valuable. This is the best way to understand how things are going in your workplace—are processes working and what needs improvement? Could you do better, and what might need to change? You can speculate all you want, but without hearing from the people actually doing the work, all you’re doing is guessing. This is why the best leaders use active listening skills when talking with their employees.
How to Be An Active Listener
It’s really quite easy when you know what to do. Just follow these tips from a leader of staff augmentation in Nashville:
- Give complete focus to the person speaking. This may seem obvious, but managers have a lot going on—emails are constantly popping up in your inbox, the phone is ringing, you’re getting text messages… you know how it goes. But all these things distract you from your conversation. So when you have a conversation with employees, remove all distractions and get ready to focus and listen.
- Avoid interrupting. Just let the person speak. Don’t jump in with suggestions or comments. Keep yourself on pause while they’re talking. You might nod your head (if chatting in person) or offer filler phrases (“Ok.” “Go on.” “I understand.”) but stop talking long enough for the person to verbalize what they need to say. Pauses from you let them elaborate and get it all out.
- Don’t jump to conclusions. You may think you know what the person is about to say, but don’t jump in. Just let them say it. Keep an open mind and listen without judgment.
- Use non-verbal cues. If you’re talking in person, you can give non-verbal cues that indicate you’re listening without saying anything that will interrupt them. This includes nodding your head, smiling, and keeping eye contact.
- Wait for natural pauses to ask questions. You can help the employee continue with their train of thought when you ask questions related to what they’re saying. But first, wait for a natural pause in the conversation. If you don’t understand what they mean, ask for clarification.
- Confirm what you’ve heard in your own words. Let the employee know you’ve listened and understood what they mean by repeating it back to them in your own words. At the conclusion of the conversation, say something like, “So what I’ve heard is, [item] and [item], and from here we’ll look into [item].”
It’s Takes Practice
If you’re used to being the one who talks the most during conversations with employees, active listening skills might be a change of pace. But with practice, you’ll have a much easier time genuinely listening to what your employees have to say.
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