Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Can You Hear Me Now?"

"Can You Hear Me Now?" was a Verizon Wireless slogan for many years. The slogan's application to leadership development, however, lives on forever. Listening properly is one of the most important skills a good manager can master. How attentive are you when dealing with your staff or crew?

In 1999, Gregory L. Rynders, Battalion Chief for the Sandy Fire Department, wrote a very informative research paper called "Listening and Leadership: A Study on their Relationship" as part of his Executive Fire Officer Program. I suggest that you read Rynders' paper as a review of listening fundamentals and consider conducting similar research on your organization.

Rynders showcases the following listening rules from Hunsaker and Alessandra (1986):

  1. Remember that it is impossible to listen and talk at the same time. This most basic rule is broken most often.

  2. Listen for the speakers main ideas. Specific facts are only important as they pertain to the main theme.

  3. Be sensitive to your emotional deaf spots. Deaf spots are words that make your mind wander or go off on a mental tangent.

  4. Fight off distractions. Train yourself to listen carefully to your employee’s words, despite external distractions.

  5. Try not to get angry. Emotions of any kind hinders the listening process, but anger in particular is detrimental to message reception.

  6. Do not trust to memory certain data that may be important. Take notes.

  7. Let your employees tell their own stories first. When employees explain their situations, they may reveal interesting facts and valuable clues to help satisfy their needs.

  8. Empathize with your employees. Make a determined effort to see their point of view.

  9. Withhold judgment. Judge the value of the message, not the speaker’s delivery ability.

  10. React to the message, not the person. Don’t allow your mental impression of the speaker to influence your interpretation of his message.

  11. Try to appreciate the emotion behind the speaker’s words (vocal and emotional)more than the literal meaning of the words.

  12. Use feedback. Constantly try to check your understanding of what you hear.

  13. Listen selectively. Very often in conservation, your employee will tell you things that will help you identify his problems, needs, goals, or objectives.

  14. Relax. When another person is speaking to you, try to put her at ease by creating a relaxed, accepting environment.

  15. Try not to be critical, either mentally or verbally, of someone else’s point of view, even if it is different from your own. Hold your temper and your emotional feelings.

  16. Listen attentively. Face your employee straight on with uncrossed arms and legs; lean slightly forward. Establish good, gentle, intermittent eye contact.

  17. To the degree that it is in your power, try to create a positive listening environment.

  18. Ask questions. Ask open-ended, feeling-finding questions to allow your employee to express her feelings and thoughts.

  19. Be motivated listener. Without the proper attitude, all the foregoing suggestions for effective listening are for naught.


No comments: