According to Forbes Magazine, better listening skills could lead to more promotions. An article in the Harvard Business Review proclaims listening to be one of the most effective — and one of the most overlooked — leadership tools. Research cited by Wright State University concludes that when you listen effectively, “you will get more information from the people you manage, you will increase others’ trust in you, you will reduce conflict, you will better understand how to motivate others, and you will inspire a higher level of commitment in the people you manage.” Ask anyone who studies business or is a successful businessperson and they’ll all probably agree that listening is one of the most important skills for a professional to have.
Listening is a Critical Skill in Business
Often, the most valuable information and feedback is not shouted from the mountaintops. It is whispered, hinted or alluded to, or subtly implied. If you’re not listening to your employees, employers, or clients — really listening, you’re definitely missing out on key information. Whether you’re sitting in an auditorium listening to a presentation, sitting at a conference table at a meeting, or having a one-on-one phone or in-person conversation, think of yourself as an investigator whose job it is to read between the lines and identify the true message and meaning of what’s being said. You can only do this if you’re listening to absorb, rather than listening to respond.
The more responsibility you have in your job, the more things and people you have competing for your time and attention. In group meetings or during one-on-one discussions or conference calls, it’s easy to become distracted. One way to avoid that is to leave your cell phone behind or turn it off when you’re in a meeting or having an important discussion with a client or employee. Not only will this allow you to concentrate, it shows your colleagues that you respect them enough to pay attention to what they’re saying.
In addition to giving others your undivided attention, taking notes (even jotting down keywords or questions) will help you focus. You probably don’t like being interrupted when you’re in mid-sentence or explaining a complex idea or situation. Others don’t like being interrupted either – it sends the messages, “My opinion is more important than yours” and “I don’t have time for you.” If you take notes, you can save your questions and comments until the other party is finished speaking.
Here are some other effective listening tips from Forbes magazine:
- Maintain eye contact with the speaker, but keep it relaxed rather than staring unnaturally
- Keep an open mind rather than mentally disagreeing or challenging the speaker’s message
- When it’s your turn to respond, ask on-topic questions (avoid veering onto tangents)
- Resist the urge to immediately offer solutions
- Empathize (try to put yourself in his or her shoes)
- Give feedback (even nodding or saying “uh huh” or enforces that you’re listening
- Watch for nonverbal cues that can indicate anxiety, fear, apprehension, anger, etc.
- Before responding, summarize what the other person has said to show you understand (and listened!)
The bottom line is this: Listen up! Silence really is golden. Close your mouth, silence your cell phone, engage your mind and your ears and you will become a much more effective boss or employee.
Houston Installation Services has been in business as office furniture installers in Houston for 40+ years, and we are always happy to share our knowledge with others. Check out the rest of our blog.