Saturday, April 9, 2011

Art of Listening

In a managers hope to guide and support their direct reports, they often forget the power of listening! I think that managers often want to stop their employees from making similar learning mistakes they made – but is this the right thing to do? Isn’t self realization more powerful than being told what to do!? Let’s just think back to a parent-teenager moment and when told what you do, you (the angry teenager) likely acted in the opposite way!  Let’s learn from the past & learn the art of Active Listening.

As a manager, asking the right open ended probing questions and guiding a direct report in a certain direction is a better technique than just directing. However, asking & listening is a WAY more difficult skill than just telling. As those who know me well, I’m a bit of a total talker so my natural premonition is just to TELL. I have to push back this part of my nature and instead focus on active listening traits I have nurtured like asking, clarifying, & confirming. By asking, being comfortable with silence (and not feeling the need to fill those silent moments) and being fully present (versus thinking of the million things on my to do list etc), I can be a better manager.

A few inspirational ideas & quotes:
-          Think of an 80-20 rule in terms of the ratio to listening versus talking in a coaching/management moment
-          To listen well, is as powerful a means of include as to talk well, and is an essential to all true conversation.” – Chinese proverb
-          "Seek first to understand, then to be understood" – Steven Covey
-          "I can't hear the words you speak for your actions are deafening" - Unknown

How do you practice active listening? What are the best questions you use as a manager? Alternatively, what are the best questions one of your favourite managers has asked you to take a different perspective on a tough matter?

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