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Do you listen? Can you hear?

Do you listen? Can you hear?

Listening is a core management skill

Have you ever heard someone say “you’re not listening!” That feeling of not being heard is frustrating. It causes people to switch off, disengage, stop talking, stop participating.  That “not being heard” has a negative impact on how people perform at work. Listening is a core management skill.  What can you do to become great at listening and hearing what people say?

Chris Hadfield, Canada’s first astronaut, tells a story from his early days of training. He was the least experienced person on the team. A highly experienced astronaut was leading the team and Chris realised the lead astronaut was about to press the wrong button. It could have had disastrous results. Chris simply said, “no that’s the wrong button” and the astronaut in charge, looked and changed his action. Everything went well and later, the more experienced astronaut surprised Chris by praising him for his observational skills and speaking out to prevent a mistake.

Imagine you’re at work and you see something which may cause a problem. It could be a machine, a process, the way you’re asked to work. You say “this might be a problem. Can I suggest we…?” If your manager or leader says “sure, tell me” then you’re being listened to. That act of listening encourages you to be open, contribute and offer solutions. It makes you feel trusted and part of the team.

What if your manager says “Don’t argue, just do it. That’s how it has to be done”? What’s your reaction then? Almost certainly you will wait for things to go wrong and feel frustrated when they do. Maybe you won’t offer suggestions in the future. You could feel you’re in the wrong team, or with the wrong manager, or even the wrong employer.

Two in three (63%) employees feel their voice has been ignored in some way by their manager or employer, which may have a devastating impact on retention: A third (34%) of employees would rather quit or switch teams than voice their true concerns with management.

If we were talking about personal relationships rather than jobs and employers, you could reasonably expect almost everyone to be getting divorced soon. So why don’t we all listen to each other?

Listening is a core management skill

If you want your employees to do their best work, then yes, it matters. If you want to keep talented people in your organization then yes, it does matter. And if you want a workforce that is agile, flexible, adaptable and deals positively with change, then it’s essential.

Whatever your role, you bring your mind to work with you. If you use – and you’re encouraged to use – your mind at work, you will tend to be happier, more productive, less stressed and feel valued. Exactly the right ingredients for an organization which wants to:

So how do you give your workforce the opportunity to be listened to and heard?

There are many tools your managers can use to help them engage their team, build communication, trust and agility. Both new and more experienced managers benefit from learning and practising techniques, updating skills and developing confidence in a range of management styles. For managers working with multi-cultural or global teams, developing more in depth understanding cultural diversity helps to leverage individuals’ capabilities. These “soft skills” are critical to success in many situations. They are also essential for leaders and managers at all levels.

It may not be the highest skilled or highest paid…employees…who are the priority for improving engagement. Trust issues are most pressing among those in junior or lower skilled roles. They are typically several layers away from leaders and have less information about how decisions are being made. They most need to have trust in leaders; and yet building trust with them needs the most work. This is why thinking rigorously and creatively about employee engagement is so important.

Can we help? Our management and leadership development programs are tailored to your specific needs. We design and deliver first line manager programs in many countries, middle management and management programs for global, multi-cultural teams. Our trainers, coaches and facilitators work in a number of languages, locations and of course online. We are confident that whatever your organizational challenges, we can help you achieve your objectives. Do get in touch to start a conversation.

Join us on LinkedIn to follow our series of blogs, articles, resources and live sessions. As always, CLS is focused on practical ideas for managers and leaders to help you develop your organization. If you want to improve trust in your organization this year, join us on the journey. 

1The Workforce Institute @UKG The Heard and the Heard-Nots 2021

2The Business Case for Trust, Grant Thornton 2017

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