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.

1) Focus on Your Employees (and Avoid Electronic Distractions)

When an employee is trying to have a conversation with a manager, all electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets or computers are distractions. A manager may not realize this, but checking their emails during a conversation does not come off as respectful to the employee trying to convey a specific message. The speaker will probably feel unimportant and underappreciated and the manager might miss out on important information. Ditch the electronic devices to avoid distractions and focus your attention on the speaker. 

2) Be Patient!

Even if you are dying to jump in and express your point of view, allow the person who is speaking to you to finish. It’s probably hard for the speaker to come in and start the conversation in the first place, and they may feel devalued if interrupted continuously. Listen quietly and express your views after the speaker has finished. 

Furthermore, research has shown that managers that respond too quickly to statements made during meetings and discussions usually miss the point of what their employees are trying to say. When your employees have finished talking, repeat the key points back to them to make sure you’ve understood their message correctly and to reinforce it yourself. 

3) Be an Active Listener!

Don’t focus only on the words that your employee is using; nonverbal cues can convey essential information if one knows how to read them. Look out for changes in intonation, volume, pace and flow and keep an eye on facial expressions and body language. All of these can be quite informative and reveal a lot. 

4) Avoid Misunderstandings

We’ve talked about body language; just as you can gather information from the speaker’s body language, they can do the same by looking at you. Resist the temptation to roll your eyes, grimace or make a face. 

Ask your employee to clarify if you really don’t understand what they’re trying to say and remain focused for the whole duration of the conversation. Selective hearing leads to misunderstandings as you hear only portions of what the speaker has said and you might miss important parts of the message.

An Effective Management Strategy

Remember, listening skills enable a manager to understand intentions and feelings of their team, an essential skill for team management. Your employees will be more open, positive and motivated if they feel they are being heard and will strive to do their best for the team. 

The best managers don’t give orders; they are first of all excellent communicators, and effective communication starts with listening.