It is true that most Managers do value and pay attention to their employees! However, many struggle with doing so in the middle of a full agenda with distractions and demands on their time and attention. Employees feel valued and appreciated when they believe their managers appreciate their efforts and care about their concerns.
Basic listening / communication skills can help busy managers demonstrate appreciation to their employees.
These skills are called ‘attending skills’. Attending skills help to build a foundation for any relationship.
Attending means giving the other person your full attention. Being aware of what they are saying or doing. In one-to-one interactions this sends the message that the employee is being listened to and fully understood.
Attending also means paying attention to everything the person says and does. This includes reading body language and takes into consideration all the silences and pauses in the conversation.
Focus and concentration can sometimes be difficult. It is easy to be distracted and momentarily lose track of the conversation. Good attending skills increase our physical and psychological attention to the person who is speaking.
Listening and responding appropriately are two key attending skills. Developing these skills is a valuable management and leadership tool.
Listening helps the person who is talking to feel appreciated and respected. When we give someone our attention they generally respond positively and, normally, become more relaxed. When a manager or leader pays particular attention to what the person is saying it encourages more open communication.
In the same way as there are different ways of listening, there is also more than one way of speaking to demonstrate that you are really listening to what is being said.
Active listening requires more than just listening to what a person says. It involves taking an interest in the other person, providing support and understanding and sometimes probing for more information.
Managers can demonstrate active listening by using simple techniques including:
• Facing the person.
• Sitting straight or leaning forward demonstrates attentiveness.
• Maintaining eye contact to show the speaker you are interested in them and what they have to say.
• Responding with prompts (nods, agreement) encourages the person to continue talking.
• Focusing on what the employee is saying can enable you to follow the logical flow of the conversation.
• Ask questions for clarification or to gain more information.
• Provide immediate feedback and an indication of future action.
• Restating (paraphrasing) the key messages you hear from the employee.
To begin and maintain ‘attending’ it is important to:
• Make time for the person. Let the person know if this is a good time to talk, if not arrange another time when you have a minimum of distractions.
• Watch your non-verbal communication: facial expressions convey interest and comprehension (or disinterest and a lack of understanding); as does your posture.
• Be aware of your speech patterns: the tone of your voice; slow down your speech to indicate that you have time for the person’s messages / concerns.
• Tracking the flow of what the person is saying (make a few notes), demonstrates paying attention to the other person.
Go a bit deeper
Try to identify what the person is not saying. Listen for clues to why the person exhibits a particular behaviour pattern (i.e. resistance) or holds limiting beliefs.
Blocks to Listening
It is important to identify and delay distractions. Distractions include that inner-dialogue that seems to be always running through our minds; forming premature judgments, and the urge to provide information at any pause in the conversation.
When a Manager is constantly aware of and developing their listening skills they are demonstrating supportive and valuable attending skills.
I welcome your feedback and comments.
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