Of all the key activities that managers engage in, none is more critical than listening. Listening helps managers communicate well. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that by 2014, nearly 80 percent of the workforce will be employed in service-type industries. These jobs all require interactions between employees and customers, and those employees must be able to communicate well to generate revenue. Managers who communicate well must first learn to listen well. Then, managers can actively engage their workers. Many tools are available to help managers learn to listen well.
Good listening begins with providing clients, customers, and employees with your full attention, and that is important for a manager whenever an employee engages her. Have your assistant answer your phone when you already are discussing problems with an employee, or let the phone go to voice mail. This allows employees and others who approach you to feel that you are fully available to listen to them.
Making eye contact is another tool for improving listening skills. As a manager, establishing eye contact with the person you are listening to establishes rapport and allows you to focus on the person. It may also help you avoid distractions and pay attention more fully. The person you are speaking with will feel that you are being attentive when you engage them with eye contact instead of looking away or looking back and forth at other people or objects while speaking.
An attribute of good listening is the ability to recall the information that you hear and paraphrase it. As a manager, you should work to maintain good recall of the conversation that you are having with the employee, customer, client or other individual. You may need to remember the conversation for a future event or decision. If someone engages you in conversation, restate what the person has said to you briefly to make sure that you have understood clearly. This will also help you to remember the conversation later. It also lets the person you are speaking with know that you are actively listening to them.
Encourage the Speaker
Encouraging the person speaking is a listening skill that motivates people to communicate well in a work group. Good listening skills include encouragement because it lets the speaker know that he or she has your undivided attention. You can encourage an individual by nodding your head, smiling, or leaning into the other person. You may also ask questions about what the conversant has to say, which shows your interest in the conversation. This motivates the speaker to continue speaking.
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