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It goes without saying that most business owners and leaders want to be seen as experts in management, deftly understand the needs of their team and making the required decisions to create a streamlin01 November, 2017
Are you listening? How active listening will power up your team
It goes without saying that most business owners and leaders want to be seen as experts in management, deftly understanding the needs of their team and making the required decisions to create a streamlined, effective, and positive working environment.
This is no easy task, as the pressures of productivity and profit margins combined with ever-changing market factors, can make modern-day management a difficult endeavour.
If you have successfully managed to negotiate the moving goalposts of management and established an effective working environment, then congratulations; you deserve commendation. But where does listening fit into your leadership outlook?
When you take into account the pressure of business life, which is time short, objective driven, and profit focused, it can be hard to provision for listening.
Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak. Wherever I go, I try to spend as much time as possible listening to the people I meet.
Active listening, not hearing
According to global research firm ORC International, a little over half (58 per cent) of the UK’s employees feel engaged at work. This is mainly because employees in less senior positions are uninspired, unhappy with the opportunities to share ideas, or feel their opinion simply doesn’t count.
All of this criticism comes back to a lack of listening. By simply giving your staff the time of day to share their thoughts about work, you’ll immediately benefit from more engaged employees, which can do wonders for morale, productivity, and profits.
Verbal and physical
Even though active listening is a skill that can be acquired with practice, it takes a fair amount of time and effort to master. It means giving your full attention to the speaker in both a verbal and physical sense. As an article on SkillsYouNeed explains:
“Listening is not something that just happens (that is hearing), listening is an active process in which a conscious decision is made to listen to and understand the messages of the speaker.”
Here are some verbal and physical responses that one should exhibit when active listening.
- Positive reinforcement – Words and phrases such as ‘yes’ and ‘indeed’ can be encouraging, but should be used sparingly, so as not to distract from the speaker, or become irritating
- Remembering – Calling to mind a few key details, such as the speaker’s main points or even their name, will instil reassurance that they have been received, understood, and appreciated.
- Questioning – Demonstrate you have been paying attention by asking relevant questions or making statements about what has been said. This also proves you take in an interest in what the speaker has to say.
- Reflection – This means repeating, or paraphrasing, what the speaker has said, which is a powerful skill that not only reinforces their opinion, but also demonstrates deeper understanding.
- Clarification – This may involve the use of open-ended questions that allow the speaker to expand on certain points and ensure the correct message has been received.
- Summarisation – By repeating what has already been said in your own words, or a more logical way, you will give the speaker confidence that they have been listened to.
- Smiling – Along with demonstrating that you are paying attention, small smiles as well as nods of the head can also show you agree with what is being said.
- Eye contact – Your use of eye contact will depend on the speaker, as some individuals find it encouraging, while others feel intimidated.
- Posture – Body language such as posture can indicate the relationship between two people. Active listeners often sit slightly forward, or sideways, with a slight slant of the head.
- Mirroring – The automatic reflection of facial expressions is a sign of attentive listening and can even help to show sympathy, or empathy.
- Distraction – Refrain from fidgeting, looking at your watch, doodling, playing with your hair, or biting your fingernails, as these signs suggest you aren’t interested in the speaker.
Conclusion – The equal importance of admiration and attentiveness
Leaders are born by their teams’ admiration of them, not just how they manage and make decisions. Active listening goes a long way to drive admiration, due to the attentiveness and empathy on show, which in turn drives loyalty and contributes to developing a high-performing culture.
Food for thought
Listening is one thing, but actually demonstrating it is another. Unless you can show that you have listened to staff and actively implemented changes as a result, you will have ultimately failed your team and their expectations.
Talent Heroes is a people business. We’re contracted by clients to work in-house, attracting and hiring an unlimited number of staff, for an all inclusive monthly fee.