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Active listening tips for managers

How to be a better listener.

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“How do we get to know another person? How do we get past ‘How are you? I’m fine’? By really asking and really listening. By being with someone, even if only for a brief moment, prepared to be nowhere else,” says Scott.

1) Use body language intentionally

“If you are a member of the tribe, you might reply by saying ‘sikhona’ or ‘I am here.’ The order of the exchange is important: until you see me, I do not exist. It’s as if, when you see me, you bring me to existence,” says Senge.

“Why is something like a smile and a nod so effective?, asks Baruch Sachs, Senior Director at Pegasystems. “When we smile at people, it is hard for them not to smile back. When we acknowledge people, it is hard for them not to acknowledge us back.”

  1. “Use what I call ‘The triangle’. This is when I look at one eye for about 5 seconds, look at the other eye for 5 seconds and then look at the mouth for 5 seconds and keep on rotating in this way.”
  2. “Break eye contact every 5 seconds or so. When breaking the eye contact don’t look down as this might indicate the ending of your part of the conversation. Instead, look up or to the side as if your are remembering something.”

2) Avoid these three forms of distraction

“You have to put it at the top of your list and acknowledge it’s a skill that’s important in your role as a leader. It has to be an active decision,” says Riordan.

“Many people think they can multitask — finish an email or read through your Twitter feed while listening to someone in a meeting. But research shows we really can’t.”

“Leaders that are mindful are not just hearing conversations; they are listening to them and engaging in the dialogue. They don’t fake it, they are taking note of what is being said and how people are saying it and are making continuous eye-contact and gestures,” says Llopis.

“If you’re finding it particularly difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, try repeating his or her words mentally as they say them — this will reinforce their message and help you to stay focused,” says Mindtools.

“Fierce conversations require silence. In fact, the more emotionally loaded the subject, the more silence is required. And, of course, this carries over into our homes, into our personal relationships,” says Susan Scott.

3) Leave your ego at the door

“Don’t take the conversations away from the other person and fill the air with your stories. Leave your expert, storyteller, fixer, fix-it hat at the door. Come into the conversation with empty hands,” says Scott.

“Let go of your own belief that you know everything and open up to the possibility of learning from others. Be open to learning from anyone in the organisation, at any level.”

4) Follow-up

“If you can do that — you have listened. It’s the acid test,” says Lampert.

“This assurance may come in the form of incorporating feedback and making changes, following through on promises made in meetings, summarizing the meeting through notes, or if the leader is not incorporating the feedback, explaining why he or she made other decisions.”

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Manuela Bárcenas

Head of Marketing at Fellow.app 👩‍💻 • Helping teams have delightful meetings ✨ • I write about management, productivity, and personal growth ✍️