Small cap managers should tap into the power of listening
"Most of the successful people I know are the ones who do more listening than talking” – Bernard M. Baruch
Managers are an interesting lot.
Why is it we have such a strong desire to be heard and less of one to be present and engaged in the practice of listening deeply?
Is it to fuel our egos, stamp our authority or to be seen as the smartest human in the room? Alternatively, even worse assume that our hierarchical position gives us the ‘speaking spotlight’ whilst those below us should be captivated by the wisdom received from the words we speak?
HR Consultant Susan M. Heathfield cites not listening as one of the ten biggest mistakes a manager can make. She says, “listening is providing recognition and demonstrating your values in action. When employees feel heard out and listened to, they feel important and respected”.
I wonder what could happen if managers truly tapped into the power of listening?
Here’s my approach that I outline in my first book ‘Being Human – Why Robots Are Not The Answer to Business Success’ in the section I refer to as ‘Listen and Learn’.
The first rule is to ‘shut up and listen’ and realise that even though you are the manager, it’s not all about you! Now this can be easier said than done, as many managers have been conditioned that success comes from their incredible knowledge and the ability to articulate this into a winning strategy. In some way, being a manager gives you licence to fill the space with your next brilliant idea. Here’s a great question to ask yourself when you feel like filling the space: ‘I wonder what would happen if I just listened for the whole meeting’? Give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised about how much you learn.
Learn to sit easy with silence as that’s when moments of breakthrough can occur. Managers should use silence as an incredible tool to leave space to allow others to be listened to.
It’s a challenge to do as awkwardness is feared by most humans, but it allows for others to find their voice and be listened to. Hold your nerve and reap the results. Remember when your employees feel heard, they will tap into their discretionary effort.
You must follow through on what you have listened to. Create formal time for conversation and listen intently to those who are sharing their thoughts and ideas. Be serious about listening – don't pay it lip service as you will end up with a room full of awkward silence. Listening time shouldn’t be a ‘tick-the-box’ activity that allows you to get that end of year rating. Your employees will know very quickly by your follow through if you are doing it from a place of good intent or just doing it for self-serving reasons. Don’t treat them like fools.
Be present and remove all distractions. Put that tablet in your top drawer, turn off your phone or even better have it out of sight, keep eye contact and don’t allow for others to interruption and break the concentration and commitment you’ve made to them. These rules also apply for the remote check in’s as it is easy to detect whether you are present or not even on a Zoom call (oh and make sure the camera is turned on!!)
It’s never too late to become a great listener and there’s a lot of power in sharing with your team that you are focussing on becoming better at ‘listening and learning’ in order to help you, them and the team to be more successful. It may mean you have to swallow some pride but that initial sting will quickly go away as the power of listening becomes evident in your team. Fess up and become more human. Your team will appreciate this.
Listen and learn – it’s a powerful way to become a more human manager.