The Importance of Listening Skills for Managers

The Importance of Listening Skills for Managers, by Jackie Edwards

Listening. Today, around 40% of employees do not feel valued or appreciated, and around 70% would be willing to accept an offer for another job or are actively looking. This issue stems from a difficulty in communication within the workplace which, as a manager, it is important to address.

While it is widely recognized that managers must be excellent leaders and problem solvers, a very important and often underlooked managing skill is also listening. This skill can make you a better and more effective manager; employees will strive hard to do their best for a manager who actively listens to them, leading to a more productive and motivated team. Here are our tips to help managers improve their listening skills.

Objectives and Agendas

Whose Objectives are You Pursuing, by Walter McIntyre

Every person and every organization has objectives and a purpose.  I am not speaking of the ones individuals profess or those an organization posts on their lobby wall.  It is the ones you observe in action that count.  These objectives, which are always related to an agenda, are not that hard to see and hear if you are paying attention.

I am fortunate to have been involved in leading a business turn around twice in my career.  In both cases individual agendas and objectives were subverting the business’s success.   In both cases, changing the focus of specific individuals, or removing the individuals from the business, became the turning point for business success.

Principles for Life

Principles for Life by Walter McIntyre

I have personal operating principles that help me have a happy and fulfilled life.  I guess you would say that this helps me lead a principle centered life.  These principles, when followed, even when it is not convenient, help me move through my life with happiness and peace of mind.  I am not advocating what is morally right or wrong, only that you need to understand “your” right and wrong to have a stable map for your life to follow.

These are my principles:

Project Management Problem Solving

Project Management Problem Solving by Walter McIntyre

I hear the following a lot.  “He (or she) is a good problem solver.” This is a great quality to have, but it is less than half the needed skill.  It is better to be known for preventing problems.  From both a time and cost prospective, a problem prevented is best, because solving a problem typically adds more time and money to a project, than a solid plan to avoid the problem in the first place.

Culture of Process Improvement

Cultural Aspects of Six Sigma Process Improvement by Walter McIntyre

Whatever the process improvement methodology used, when properly applied, it produces a change in a business’s culture. Outlined below are some behavioral changes necessary to sustain a customer focused process improvement effort.

View the business as an organization of processes:
• If you view the business as an organization of processes, then managing the business becomes managing processes.
• Processes are interrelated and, as a result, they interact with each other. Changing one affects the others.
• If the appropriate processes are in place, managing those processes is managing people. Not the other way around.

Listening and Speaking Skills

Listening and Speaking Skills by Walter McIntyre

A process improvement team is from the beginning a team of investigators. They investigate process performance by looking for improvement opportunities and the root causes of problems. All of us have seen detective programs on TV where a sleuth investigates a crime. They ask questions, listen, set up stakeouts, and eventually discover what really happened. Process improvement teams follow the same strategy. They ask questions, listen, and monitor processes. All of this to discover the root causes of process problems. An improvement team will use all four basic communication skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. These skills become the lubrication that allows a diverse group of team members to work through an improvement project successfully.

Government and History

Government and History by Walter McIntyre

Our current day politicians seem to want to berate Washington, our government and everyone that is there. Don’t be fooled, all of them are trying to become what they criticize, insiders. These naysayers have lost site of the importance of knowing and understanding history. Actually, they should be embracing the history and talent that resides in our nation’s capital. Many decisions that shaped our history, and the modern history of the world, were made by men and women, in desperate times, showing great courage from political office or appointment. There is much we can learn from them. The same cannot be said of any other city in the United States, or any demographic involving corporate headquarters.

Voice of the Customer

Voice of the Customer by Walter McIntyre

Typically, there is not a single voice of the customer.  They are fractioned into multiple groups, each with their own perspective.  Each group may also have different voices in different circumstances.

For the Six Sigma team, identifying the customer involves more than collecting information about who is purchasing the business’s products or services.  Those who purchase the products and services are just one of several customer groups.  Some other classifications are internal supplier/customer hand-offs, customers of competitors, former customers, and potential customers.

Operational Excellence Teams

Operational Excellence Teams by Walter McIntyre

In Operational Excellence, Innovation teams and production teams have different functions and purpose. They also have an area of overlapping responsibly. Both play a critical role in improvement efforts.

Production teams are typically made up of the production line employees, the doers, and have the responsibility to optimize the existing production process within existing SOP’s. They see the production process at the ground level, in fact, they experience it. It is this closeness to the work that makes their engagement so critical on a daily basis. Their’s is the domain of continuous improvement in small, but critical steps.

Being Fearless

Being Fearless by Walter McIntyre

The lens we view the world through can lead us to incorrect and destructive decisions. Perspective is everything when we face difficult problems. It is the difference between being fearful or being fearless. This is true in our personal lives and in our professional lives.

If you are going to tackle the most difficult problems and opportunities at work, or face down Iife’s most trying events, you must move quickly from asking why the problem exists to what you are going to do about it. Not that the “why” is not important, just that it is only the beginning, not the end of successful resolution. Asking why is only a lens to see that the problem exists. Asking what we are going to do about it is a different lens that leads to action.