A Good Manager is a Good Listener – 6 Tips to Improve Your Skills
There are many skills you need as a manager, but being a good listener is one of the areas where you’ll really make a difference – both with your team and your colleagues.
There is a big difference between hearing what someone is saying, and really listening to them. We think more quickly than we talk. Our brains can process 300 words a minute, more than double our talking speed. The power of our brain processing means we can easily be thinking of something else while still hearing what someone is saying to us.
If you listen effectively, you will get to know your team better, making it easier to build rapport and develop mutual trust and understanding.
But developing your listening skills takes time and practice. Active listening involves focusing all your attention on the person who is talking, reflecting back and paraphrasing what they say, and only then choosing how to respond to what they have told you.
Here are 6 top tips to improve your listening skills as a manager
Ask open questions
Be curious – don’t assume you know how someone is feeling. Start questions with how, what, who, where, when or why. E.g. What happened next? How did that make you feel?
Focus your attention
Show that you’re listening by making eye contact, nodding occasionally and smiling. These small actions tell the speaker that you’re interested in what they are saying and that you’ve got time for them.
Think about your body language
Try to be relaxed rather than tense – perhaps mirroring the other person’s body language e.g. sitting back when they do or copying how they place their hands. If someone senses that you are tense, e.g. standing with your arms folded, they are less likely to tell you what is really on their mind.
Active listening involves reflecting back what the other person has said e.g. by summarising or paraphrasing. E.g. ‘so it’s been a tough week for you; you’ve got a lot going on at home.’ Reflecting back shows that you have been listening and that you haven’t been focused on what your next question will be.
Don’t rush to jump in with what you’re going to say. Take time, perhaps reflecting back or pausing for a moment of silence.
Keep an open mind
If you are going into a conversation with a decision or outcome already in mind, you are more likely to hear, but not listen. Practise clearing any judgments or pre-conceptions from your thoughts and go in with an open mind; you’ll reap the benefits.