A recent Learning Dynamics training workshop with managers of a healthcare organization served as a reminder of the importance of listening at every level of the organization. The program, Leadership Communication, includes a discussion and exercise on active listening, and it was one of the most productive parts of the day’s effort.
Nearly everyone has heard the term “active listening,” but how many of us use the skill regularly? In Leadership Communication and other communication-themed programs, we highlight the value of asking questions, listening without interrupting, paraphrasing, and confirming understanding. We know that many people don’t use active listening techniques often; rather, they frequently are just waiting for their turn to talk.
On this day, we asked the participants to pair off and ask a simple question: “What can I do to help you be more successful in your job?” These were not people who reported to each other. They were managers who lead their respective work centers, so this is not a question they frequently present to each other. The results were thought-provoking.
Within minutes, one of the participants said, “This is great! We never have a chance to speak like this.” After several minutes of productive conversation using intelligent questions and active listening skills, all came away with ideas to help each other move the organization forward. The total invested time was ten minutes.
So, what can leaders take from this exercise? Here are some ideas:
Encourage idea-sharing vertically and horizontally within the organization. Schedule some high-value business partnership time to allow for activities like that described above.
Ask questions at all levels. Then listen. Employees in customer-facing and production roles likely have ideas to share. After all, they are the ones executing on management’s direction. What might they teach leaders who are willing to listen?
Managers don’t always have the best answers. Paraphrasing Steve Jobs, we hire smart people, so shouldn’t we listen to them?
Finally, employees become more engaged when they feel heard. A key engagement question concerns one’s ideas and opinions carrying weight. What better way to show an employee that her opinions count than by asking questions and actively listening?
It is not always easy to just listen. The potential benefits – new ideas, better team work, and more committed employees, to name a few – make it worth the effort. Be a better leader and listen.
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Learning Dynamics offers several instructor-led, webinar-based, and digitally-delivered learning and development solutions to help your team members become better communicators. Contact us today to discuss your priorities.