In order to be a good manager, one has to have a special set of skills that bolster productivity and support team members in their endeavors in the field. Many people can rally others, inspire confidence and talk a good game to clients or higher management, but can they listen? Not just hear what others have to say, but really listen to the subtext and pay attention to inflection and the words chosen in a given interaction. This is an entirely different skill that can be very difficult to master, and picking it up is made all the more challenging because of the reliance on digital media in the workplace.
It's not just you
Apparently, listening is tough for everybody across the board. In a recent survey, Accenture found that practically all professionals regarded themselves as being excellent listeners (96 percent), while even more claimed that at least part of their days involved multitasking (98 percent). Is it possible to be an excellent listener while also focusing on more than one task at once? Chances are, these professionals aren't listening as well as they could be. If someone walks into a manager's office to talk but the manager keeps his or her eyes on the computer screen and his or her fingers on the keyboard, that person is being heard but perhaps not listened to. This is the curse of the digital age – people are more efficient at work but far less productive and active when it comes to being present in the moment.
It would seem that listening is truly valued in the workplace above other skills, yet there are very few opportunities to really activate it. A management training seminar is a very good thing for managers to attend if they wish to refine their skills and bring their new-found knowledge into the office.
Fixing the problem from the inside out
Those with lackluster listening skills should not fret, as there are ways to remedy the problem. The Harvard Business Review recognized that even the most successful leaders struggle to step back and listen to employees. HBR quoted Christine Riordan, a leadership coach, who asserted that "a real conversation is a two-way dialogue." This is the trick to true communication – remembering that both speaking and listening clearly are equally important and that communication can't happen without one or the other.
Recognizing that there is a deficit in the listening category is an important first step toward making the necessary changes. Altering the mindset that listening can be done at the same time as something else is very important for leaders to do. A few quick tricks that can help active listening are making deliberate eye contact, note-taking and asking questions that reiterate phrases or words. Both parties are sure to get more out of a conversation that has such careful consideration put into it.
Managers and leaders should invest in themselves and in their employees by taking the time to hone the skill of listening. Active listening will undoubtedly lead to a more active and productive work environment.