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How can I improve my listening skills?

By August 15, 2012All members

How can I improve my listening skills? (And why would I want to?)

how can I improve my listening skillsGreat leaders and managers have effective listening skills. They know what is happening outside of their organisation, within their own business and within their customers company too.

A manager’s listening skills are key to team building, motivation, creating enthusiasm and mutual respect.

Through good listening skills you acquire information, enabling you to identify and clarify issues, make decisions, resolve conflict and be creative.

As some of you may know, I’m a member of Toastmasters International where we learn not only to speak well, but also to give feedback. We do this by writing down our feedback and standing up for 2-3 minutes and giving a precis of what went well and ideas for improvement. This truly focusses the mind on effective listening! Getting feedback from a great listener is incredibly motivating and confidence building. If you want to really improve your listening skills, I can think of few better places to practice.

To be effective, you will listen when:

1. you want to resolve conflict

Sadly, however good we are as a manager, at some point we will face conflict either between team members or with another colleague.

A few years ago, I was promoted to manage 2 merged teams. The only problem was that one of the teams already had a manager who would now report to me. To say he was unhappy is an understatement! Eventually I cornered him and told him we needed to discuss how we would work together. I chose the office cafe when I knew no-one else would be there and listened to him rant and rave for about 20 minutes, only nodding and saying that I understood his ire and frustration.Eventually he calmed down, and we were able to discuss some of the ideas we had for making this work. When we went our separate ways over a year later, he was my greatest advocate.

If it’s 2 team members, sit them down and get each to explain their concerns without interruption. As I found out with my colleague, often all they need is for their concerns to be recognised. For more advice on resolving conflicts.

2. you are visiting a customer or prospect

Instead of telling your customer what you can or can’t do for them, why not ask them, ask for suggestions for improvement and then listen to the answer. People are often much more insightful than we think, and too often, the sales meeting is just a sales broadcast. Your customer needs to know you think what they say is important, and for that you need to listen. To improve your listening and mentoring skills.

3. you want to create understanding

Never assume understanding! It’s very easy for a manager to assume that everyone understands what they mean. But it is important to remember that not everyone as the same core knowlege that you do, nor the same capability or experience to follow what may seem obvious to you. Time taken to ensure understanding will save more time later. So ask questions, listen to the answers, then clarify where people haven’t understood. To improve your team communication skills.

4. you want to increase innovation

Most companies are brim full of people with exciting ideas that they don’t share with their bosses for fear of being slapped down. Why not set aside a couple of hours a month when anyone can come to you with an idea for improving what they (or you) do, which you promise to listen to without criticising.

I used to work for an IT company where the MD was always moaning that no-one had any ideas. When I asked him how much time he put aside to listen to ideas, he said he didn’t have time for that! For a quick solution to creative problem solving.

5. you want to save time

Meetings are probably among the top resource drain in corporate business – because no one has to literally pay for them.Most people go to meetings to tell the other attendees stuff. Then have another meeting, because no-one listened to the other people the first time. etc. Why not go and listen instead; listening can transform an average meeting into a meaningful one. Or better yet, just listen to the relevant people, and skip the meeting! For 12 tips on meeting management mastery

Please give me a call on 01494 680997 to discuss further or email me: I promise to listen!

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  • Nigel Temple says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Jacqui. Listening skills are vital for entrepreneurs, directors, managers and, of course, marketers! I remember Rank Xerox teaching me to be a better listener, when I worked for them as a salesman. All the best, Nigel

  • Jacqui-Hogan says:

    It’s also translatable to Social Media Nigel. Many (most?) people think Social Media is about TELLING people what they do, rather than interacting and having conversations – which means listening as well as talking. I don’t know whether this is because social media feels like advertising, in that you can’t see the audience?

    Any thoughts?

  • Nigel Temple says:

    I agree. Social media = a conversation. I think that it’s important to ‘listen’ to people and to respond appropriately.

    From a marketing perspective, conversations lead to relationships which lead to business opportunities.

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