Listen Up! What Leaders Can Learn From Team Members

BY Kathy Crosett
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Are you still having trouble listening to your employees? In your management and leadership training, you’ve heard all about how it’s important to hear what your team members are saying. But, somehow, when they start talking to you, your attention drifts. Maybe the problem is you don’t get the true purpose of listening.

At LeadershipFreak, Dan Rockwell talks a lot about leaders’ failure to listen. In a recent post, he highlights five purposes of listening. Let’s take a look at a couple of his points.

You Matter

On this blog, we talk frequently about retaining top talent through meaningful work, awesome compensation and award-​winning culture. The simple act of listening supports these efforts. When you stop what you’re doing and give your employee your undivided attention, you are saying, “You matter. The work you do here matters. So I’m going to hear what you’re telling me.” When you listen closely, you’re also showing your team member respect. You’re telling that person they are worthy of your precious time.

If you only give a team member half of your attention – by texting or checking your email during a conversation – you’re telling that person you’re not interested in what they have to say. Behaving like this can bring you down in a couple of ways. First, your employee is likely to disengage from their work and eventually from the company. Second, your employee could be warning you about something that has serious consequences for the future of the company. If you miss the whole point of the conversation, how much more time and energy is it going to cost you to fix that problem six months from now?

You’re Helping to Define and Solve the Problem

Part of your job as a leader or manager is to help others learn. When a new employee comes to you with a problem, you have a teaching opportunity. Let’s take the age-​old problem of “something’s wrong with my computer.” You know the likely solution to this problem. You could solve it in two minutes. And, the next time the employee comes to you, you could do it again. Or, you could ask the employee for ideas. Ask if they’ve encountered this problem before. Ask if they have any suggestions. If they outline a convoluted, multi-​step process, ask them if they can think of another way. Through careful listening, you can lead them to the preferred, first solution in this situation – reboot the machine.

When you follow this listen-​suggestion process, you learn how your employees think. And, your employees learn to think independently.

Remember that old proverb — "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Before you start leading, make sure you have listened to and understand the challenge.