By Amanda Ronan
When surveyed about their biggest sources of dissatisfaction at work, employees rank availability and communication with managers in the top eight. Employees want access to managers who listen. They want to feel respected by their bosses.
One way to improve your relationships with employees is with active listening.
What is Active Listening?
Active listening requires you to be fully engaged in a conversation, rather than just passively “hearing” the words that are being said. When you actively listen, you understand the message being communicated.
Active listening requires concentration and practice. You need to show that you are listening by making eye contact, nodding, smiling (or frowning depending on the message) and providing verbal confirmation from time to time that you understand what is being said.
When the person you are listening to has finished speaking, you will want to ask questions, make clarifications and summarize what you heard. This ensures that you have received the right message and shows the speaker you were engaged.
How To Get Started with Active Listening
If you get easily distracted in your office, have important conversations with employees in a neutral location, like a meeting room or even off-site. If you feel more comfortable taking notes, do so. Let the employee know that notes help you concentrate on what they are saying and ensure that you are understanding the message.
Set aside time.
Everything from quick check-ins to yearly reviews require active listening. If you are always thinking about the next thing on your calendar, you will not be listening. Be sure to set aside enough time to devote to really listening to your employees.
Look for nonverbal clues.
One of the quickest ways to understand the emotions behind the message is to look for nonverbal clues from your employees while they are speaking. You want to concentrate on their message, but to internalize the purpose of the conversation, you will need to look at their posture, their facial expressions and listen to their tone.
Why Active Listening Matters
- Shows employees they matter. Your employees want to feel useful and needed. If they are not being given face time with you, their leader, they will not feel like their messages are valued. When they do get a meeting, if they are not being listened to, they will know it. Active listening is a crucial part of maintaining a supportive business culture and climate.
- Helps you engage fully. How many times have you felt blindsided by an issue that arises and wondered, “why didn’t I see this coming?” It is possible that because you were not listening, you missed the clear messages your employees were sending. By staying in the present moment during employee interactions, you are more likely to catch any subtle (or obvious) warning signs they are sharing.
- Encourages empathy at work. Businesses can feel like cutthroat places full of people who are too busy to take the time to care for each other. As the leader, you get to set the culture and lead by example. At home, you are probably a loving partner, parent and friend. You care about the people around you. Those values should not stop when you get to work. By becoming an active listener, you have a way to bridge your work-self with your personal-self. Doing so will show your employees that you understand what they are going through because you are listening to what they say and how they say it.
Becoming a great business manager and leader takes time and practice. You will need to learn new things along the way. If active listening is just the tip of iceberg of the skills you would like to acquire to improve and grow your management style, check out the online MBA degrees at Grand Canyon University.
To learn more about how Grand Canyon University’s Colangelo College of Business provides students with cutting-edge leadership skills, visit our website or click the Request More Information button on this page.
More About Amanda:
Amanda Ronan is a writer and editor focused on education. She was a classroom teacher for nearly a decade. Now she spends her time writing for students, teachers and parents. Amanda also writes curriculum for entrepreneurial learning and financial literacy programs. Amanda lives in Austin where she enjoys splashing in creeks with her husband and two dogs, swaying in a hammock on the porch and sampling all the breakfast tacos the city has to offer.