Great Managers Listen

My biggest failure as a manager occurred when I did not hear the needs or woes of my team. I did not pay attention, did not read stressed faces and paid mind only to my own tasks. Your core mission as a manager? Get results out of others. If you do not understand your team because you have not listened to them, then you cannot possibly know their strengths and weaknesses enough to optimize results. You cannot tap into people’s drive if you have no grounds to empathize with them. It takes time and energy to “be there” for your team. It takes patience to hear every word and understanding to process everything. It often takes forgiveness and humility to avoid taking things personally. It takes regular interaction to stay current (people change, after all). More than anything else, it takes open ears. Listen to your team, hear them out. If they don’t speak, ask questions. Schedule a meeting. Go out for drinks or a meal. Whatever it takes to make your people comfortable enough to speak their mind.

Say It in Person

If you have something important to say, say it in person. Do not cower behind the ink of a letter. You may think you have more control with the written word, but you don’t.

In writing, you can only wield spaces and punctuation between words. In person, you have your body and environment to help articulate your point. And there can be no pensive or awkward silences on the page.

In writing, the reader sets the tone. In person, you can set the tone. A smile or frown makes a big deal.

In writing, errors and tangents hurt your argument. In person, you have the freedom to revise your statements and make mistakes. We’re human after all.

In writing, the dialogue is asymmetrical (a one-way street). In person, your conversation can be mutual. You can alter the flow of your monologue based on the listener’s questions or reactions.

It will take you longer to think your way through a letter than to speak from the heart in person. Your listener will appreciate you more in person, no matter how good or bad the news. And there’s far less room for misunderstanding and error in person. Trust me.

I wish I could tell you this in person.

5 Fundamentals for the Effective Listener

    1. Always make eye contact. Know the other person’s eye color.
    2. Face the subject directly. Not at an angle, not side-by-side. Square your shoulders.
    3. Pay attention. Be present in the conversation. No cheating. Staring into space is not listening.
    4. Respond. Listening is not always silent. Repeat core thoughts, ask questions, laugh. It can save you from boredom.
    5. Lean forward. Into the conversation. But be careful not to invade personal space. Intimacy is key. Do not be afraid to connect.

    Listen to someone well and they will be more inclined to listen to you.