As managers, most of us are caught up in the day to day challenges of running our organizations. We’ll never have enough time to get things done. To finish each day without being too far behind, many of us cut corners. One of the most common strategies is to only half-listen to the people we manage – big mistake. You could be missing something important, in addition to failing to connect with your team members. Melissa Daimler, at Twitter, has a few strategies to help you tweak your listening skills.
Daimler identifies different types of listening. We’re all guilty of half-listening. Those of us who are parents have perfected the skill and have trained ourselves only to listen for the dangerous statements that pop out of the constant stream of talking our kids do. This is not how to listen to team members. Daimler urges us to practice 360 listening. This form of listening means paying attention to what is being said and how it is being said. Is your team member excited when she’s sharing a success with you or does she seem bored or burnt out. Paying attention to these details can help you anticipate problems and take action before a bad situation gets worse.
How to Listen
Besides exhibiting the right physical behavior for listening – using eye contact and uncrossing your arms, you need to employ a couple of other changes to actively listen. Put down the phone and close your laptop. It’s easy to think you’re a whiz multitasker but checking to see if that important message has come in while you’re talking with a team member is rude and disrespectful. When you check your phone, you’re telling her you have more important things to do besides listening to her. And, you contribute to a culture that makes it acceptable to not listen.
We’re all stressed about trying to get our work done. There will always be more work than we can finish. Accept that fact and give yourself permission to ‘create space in your day.’ This may be the most important piece of advice Daimler gives us. Set aside a specific period of time to meet with and listen to your team members.
Creating a culture of respect through careful listening will help you build a stronger team and alert you to challenges and opportunities you may have missed.