Have you ever gotten into your car, turned on news radio to
listen to traffic and weather and realized 30 minutes later, after 2 cycles of
this report, that you still did not know when it was going to start raining or
which route was accident free?I have; I did it on Tuesday.
Like you I had a million other things on my mind and had not made a
conscious decision to listen to the broadcast I needed. We do the same thing with our employees.
I like to illustrate employee concerns using plates. When employees come to you with an issue it
can seem really trivial. The list of
things you have to do and the scope of your responsibility is much larger than
your employee’s. You have a really full
plate, a platter, which has lots of items on it. The issue the employee has brought to you can
seem like a really small item. But for
the employee it takes up a larger part of their plate.
Here’s where listening comes in. If you make a conscious decision to listen to
the employee you can resolve an issue or concern much more quickly. It can also keep the issue from spilling over
to other employees. The steps to show an
employee that you are listening start with facing them, using eye contact and
minimizing distractions. If they come to
you at a time when you can’t devote the attention you’re much better off asking
them to return at a specific time than thinking about traffic and weather while
they’re describing an equipment deficiency.
The next step in good listening is asking the right
questions. Ask open ended questions to
let the person know you are actively involved in the conversation and to gain
good information. You may find out
something that makes it easy to resolve the situation. Or you may decide that there is nothing you
can do. Either way this is the time to
paraphrase the employee’s comments.
“Jim, I see you’re frustrated by the delay in receiving the materials
you need from the vendor.”
In many situations the employee just needs to vent. If I had a dollar for the number of times an
employee or client said, “Thanks, I just needed to talk. I would have collected
this morning. It’s time well spent in
building trust and good working relationships.
Good listening can be really powerful. It can actually save time, and help you avoid