For some, listening like the other person is the lead singer of your favorite band may be easy. However, for those who need some additional help sharing the microphone, here are some techniques I have used to decrease the noise and increase communication.
Schedule Time to Listen
Does your calendar drive your day? Try scheduling time to listen and learn about your team, other departments, and customers. For instance, I had an open-door policy. There were times, however, when an unscheduled conversation ran over into a scheduled commitment. When this happened, I would open my calendar and schedule a time to finish our conversation. I also used this time to ask if a change in setting (e.g., warehouse or manufacturing line) or additional stakeholders (e.g., department leaders or suppliers) would be beneficial.
As leaders, we use much of our time directing work, managing teams, or describing our vision. A challenge can be leaving space for others to communicate how reality may differ from your perception. One opportunity to do this is letting team members volunteer to lead a meeting you typically lead. A different voice and perspective may be valuable in increasing participation. This also allows you to be a more active listener to identify and recognize areas of development.
Reject the Tendency to Talk and Type
Productivity is important. Computers, tablets, and cell phones are valuable tools to increase our productivity, but they can also be costly distractions. What you may see as multitasking may give others the impression that you are too busy for them. You can try pushing the keyboard away or putting the mobile device down to better engage if this seems difficult.
Just hearing someone else’s words is hardly ever enough. Listening and spending the time to show appreciation for what someone has communicated can be invaluable. When listening to feedback, it can be especially challenging to receive. But, when brought to you professionally, saying thank you for a person’s comments recognizes their time investment in you. Some ways of expressing your gratitude for their time can be lunch, a thank you message, or recognition to a larger group.
Now that you have tuned up your listening skills, try using these four steps to jump-start your process improvement efforts: