Listen Up!

An Exclusive

CHICAGO — Do you ever get into a discussion with someone who just doesn’t want to listen and attempts to monopolize the exchange? This person asks a question, then attempts to explain what they think the answer is while you’re trying to explain the facts and offer suggestions. This frustrating situation signals a real management flaw.

Good communication skills are built through the ability to listen well.

Listening follows a key first rule: Exercise self-discipline.

The second rule is to remain optimistic. This ensures that your listening is a positive experience for others. Assume the other person’s intentions are good, despite their choice of words or their tone of voice.

A third rule of listening is to be competitive. Your desire to win can get you in front of the prospect or client. Once there, your success depends first upon your ability to listen.

Communication is a two-way exchange of information. As one party conveys information, the other party supplies feedback that is used by the first to ensure that the meaning is conveyed and understood. This is why the ability to listen and comprehend is so important.

Successful managers are always curious. They have hundreds of questions they would like answered and usually many more than they can comfortably ask during a single meeting with a team member. The quality of their questions is a form of communication in itself; it denotes the desire to comprehend and to ultimately lead the organization.

Once managers ask a question, they listen (or they should be listening). They listen to the words the subordinate uses to describe their situation, challenges and opportunities. They also “listen” to the unspoken words communicated by the other person’s body language.

They don’t listen to determine what solution they will provide or what they might sell. They listen simply to understand. This is an act of caring, and is perhaps the most powerful message a manager can convey.

Only after a good manager truly listens to understand does he or she explain his or her own ideas. Regardless of how polished a professional speaker or presenter the manager may be, their ability to communicate their ideas is made powerful by their ability to gather information by listening first.

These communication skills represent the manager’s ability to tie their ideas and solutions to what they gained by listening.

When it is time to convey their ideas, great managers communicate their thoughts so that others can understand them. They have the ability to speak and observe the audience feedback simultaneously.

When listening skills are lacking, the manager believes it is their job to speak and to present their ideas. They move forward without listening, which conveys the powerful and negative message that what the subordinate thinks is not as important.

Not listening communicates a lack of caring. It is selfish and arrogant.

Even if the manager has the ability to speak well, those skills are worthless if he or she lacks the ability to listen.


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