Are You Listening? The Best Listeners Make the Best Managers
The media is quick to tell us that the fourth industrial revolution is here and every business must bow down to digital technology as its new master. While there is a degree of truth behind the rhetoric, it is important that businesses remember the human factor. Any organization’s most precious asset remains its people, and in the digital age, the effectiveness with which we communicate with them is more important than it has ever been.
This is partially because many of us seem to have forgotten that communication is a two-way street. Digital technology is great for giving people a voice, through social media, cloud-based communication systems, blogs and numerous other tools. Yet what use is a voice unless there is an ear that is really willing to hear it? Let’s take a look at how we can all become better listeners and in the process, better managers.
Improving your listening skills
The first step to becoming a better listener is to stop trying to multi task. We all lead busy lives, both in and out of work, but no conversation is going to go well if you are listening to an employee while peering over, and sometimes at, your laptop and constantly glancing at your phone. So close the computer, put the phone on quiet and give the other party the respect of your undivided attention.
Step two involves active listening. This acknowledges the fact that the majority of communication is actually non-verbal. In other words, it can sometimes be the case that what is said is less important than how it is said. That’s why we can sometimes have those cringe-inducing moments where an attempt at humor by email or text message has been horribly misunderstood by the other party. There is still no true substitute for a face-to-face conversation, and a little knowledge of body language can go a long way.
Finally, be patient. Some people take a while to come to the point, and it can be easy to switch off, hurry them along or worst of all, talk over them and finish their sentences with your own opinions.
Adding value to your business
Employees who feel their managers really listen to them will be happier and better motivated to do a good job. They will also be far more likely to approach you with any ideas, innovations or indeed problems.
One point about the digital revolution that we can all agree on is that these days, the business environment is more competitive than ever. Having a happy, motivated workforce means your organization can derive a real competitive edge from its most valuable asset.
About the author: After taking a career sabbatical to become a mother, Jackie Edwards now writes full time on matters relating to business, finance and tech. She was previously an HR manager, and found that one of the key areas people struggled with was effective communication and listening to one another. She has, in the past, battled problems with anxiety and panic, and in her spare time she volunteers for a number of local charities that support people with mental health issues.