Managers: Are you listening?
It's called "multi-tasking," but what it should really be called is "multi-distracting." New research shows the average smartphone user checks their phone 214 times per day. In a 24-hour day, that's every 6 minutes! So connected are we that we no longer have to pull the phone out of our pocket -- we have a watch that can "gently" tap us on the wrist to let us know someone has emailed, sent a text, or that some other critical notification is waiting to distract us.
Sarah was my top biller. It's no surprise that she wasn't shy. She would frequently stop by my office with a question or a success story or just to "run something by me." Sarah was especially good at "managing her manager" (me) by telling me to shut the laptop and pay attention to her. Too often, I fell victim to half listening, peering over the computer screen, and only half hearing what a seller had to say. Sarah helped me change that behavior.
As a manager, understanding your team is the only way to effectively lead them and to help them grow. Paying attention, not just listening, is the only way to develop that understanding. There are hundreds of quotes to be found about listening -- really listening. I'd like to share my 3 favorites:
1. "You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time."— M. Scott Peck
2. "The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.” — Henry David Thoreau
3. "Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much."— Robert Greenleaf
In business and personal relationships, listening is the key to understanding. People buy from us because we understand them, not because we make them understand us. In order to understand, you have to listen. You have to pay attention.
For me, active listening -- really paying attention -- takes a disciplined and dedicated approach. It's way too easy to get distracted. Here are 6 key lessons I've learned in my struggle:
Jeff Schmidt is the SVP of Professional Development for the RAB. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB
- Put all electronics away. This includes tablets, phones, laptops; and if you're sitting at a desk, get away from behind the screen.
- Use a piece of paper and pen for note taking. While this sounds old school, it eliminates the temptation to be distracted by gadgets you just put away.
- Maintain eye contact. Not staring, but actively maintaining eye contact will allow you to see the non-verbal signals that facial expression and tone of voice cannot communicate. It also allows you to give non-verbal feedback with a smile, a nod, etc.
- Sit up straight. Slouching or leaning back may communicate disinterest. Pay attention to their body language as well.
- Clear your mind. Do your best while listening to not let your mind wander. This is a tough one. Your mind is likely wandering right now. Bring it back.
- Think before you speak. No, really, think for a full 3 seconds or more before you speak. The silence allows you to formulate your question or comment, rather than attempting to do it while you are trying to listen. Caution: Silence is uncomfortable.