Posted: March 7, 2023, 2 p.m.
4 Ways Listening Affects Success
Most employees want managers and bosses who are good listeners. Effective listeners understand nonverbal communication and facial expressions, sure, but it goes deeper than that. It’s important to not just hear your employees but understand them, too. Passive listening is listening without reacting—and while you should focus on making the speaker feel that you’ve given them your undivided attention and not try to multi-task, active listening is a better form of listening.
1. Improved Understanding of Others
When you're listening, it's important to truly understand the other person. The most fundamental benefit of listening is that it helps you understand your employees.
As a manager, you will often be faced with people saying that they want one thing, but there might be an underlying request. Active listening can help you get to the heart of the matter. To avoid this, never assume that the stated issue is the only issue; you must be willing to explore the proposed issue and seek out the underlying concerns.
It’s not just about body language, eye contact, and nonverbal cues. When you listen with intention, you can ask clarifying questions. It’s a comprehension gauge and critical listening. Asking questions like “wait, hang on, I'm not sure I get that,” “Can you help me understand this?” or “So is this your main point?” are all signs that you’re listening to understand others and paying close attention. You’re more likely to get the complete message.
2. Improved Employee Engagement
It's important that you're engaged with your employees. Effectively listening is one of the key tools you can use to engage your employees. The 2022 Gallup Poll showed that 32% of full- and part-time employees working for organizations are engaged, while a whopping 17% are actively disengaged!
There are three steps you can take to let your employees know that you are listening and engage with them.
The first step is to reach out to your employees. Get out on the floor, spend time in the office, show up on the workshop floor—go where your employees do their work. Then talk to them about their work. Watch them interact with their fellow team members. They may share similar experiences or have new perspectives that you won’t see if you’re not on the floor withthem.
Ask them open-ended questions, get their opinions on decisions that are coming, and make sure to pay full attention to what they say, make them feel listened to as they express their own thoughts and feelings.
The next step is to make a conscious effort to consider your employees’ opinions. Whether you adopt their suggestions or not, make sure you communicate to your team that you've heard them, that you understood their feedback, and that you're taking their opinions into consideration. If you end up going in a different direction, then make sure that they understand why and listen to any new concerns they may have.
Finally make sure to listen to your employees as you roll out changes. Allow them the opportunity to speak up and engage in the challenges of any new decision, new policy, and any significant change. As a leader, your job is to give them an open door, an open mind, and the opportunity to speak. This goes a long way in letting your employees know that you are there for them. This is trust building — and trust building leads to engagement.
If your team feels listened to throughout the process they will feel a sense of increased ownership, higher levels of autonomy, and perceptions of control — and all of these lead to increased engagement.
3. Improved opportunities for agreement
Listening plays an important part in getting to an agreement faster. Active listening techniques help you hear when they are starting to agree and allow you to build on that agreement.
First off, when people feel listened to, some really cool things happen:
- They're more likely to listen in return; they’ll actually listen to what you have to say.
- They're more likely to trust in what you're saying and engage in honest conversation
- And they are more likely to actually see you as somebody they can work with.
If you've ever studied negotiation or sales you've likely been taught to listen for moments of agreement. If you miss those moments, you could lose the sale, the contract, or the chance to move forward with an agreement. So what do you want to listen for?
You want to listen for talk about the future. If people start saying “yeah, I could really see how this project is going to work well for the company,” then they are already on board.
Listen for language that involves “we,” like “I can totally see how we could make this happen.”
Listen for the opportunities where they are looking forward and looking at you together. Listen and embrace that feedback. If you recognize those signifiers of agreement you are more likely to move towards commitment and agreement.
So use these listening tricks to help your team become more agreeable. The next time you are working with someone that you need to get to an agreement, bring your best listening game - Hear their thoughts, look for moments of agreement, and build on it.
4. Improved Commitment.
Wouldn't you like more commitment from your employees? Commitment is hard because it can mean closing the door on other potential opportunities. That can be really stressful—we humans love options! But oftentimes commitment is a necessary step for moving forward and getting us off of the hamster wheel of infinite options.
Research shows that when people feel listened to, when they feel like they have a voice, they're more likely to commit going forward.
This manifests in a variety of ways:
- High school and college students who feel like their teacher listens are actually more likely to do better on tests and in class, regardless of other aspects of the teacher or professor.
- Supervisors that are shown to have effective listening have employees that are more engaged, have lower turnover, and are more satisfied.
- My favorite, however, is the research that looked at doctors: Doctors who show good listening skills and strong attending behaviors, actually have patients who get healthier, faster!
This happens for two reasons:
One is that when someone feels listened to, they're more likely to say what's really going on and therefore the doctors can make a better diagnosis. Additionally, when patients feel listened to, they're more likely to follow instructions and commit to decisions of the doctor.
My grandmother was a perfect example of this. When my grandmother was in her eighties, I visited her in her apartment. She had one of those pill boxes that had a compartment for each day and the times she was supposed to take her medication. It was a Wednesday and all of the boxes for Mon and Tue still had one lonely little red pill in them. So I said, “Grandma, what's that red pill for and why aren’t you taking it?” She says “I just hate that doctor.”
I know it sounds silly, but when people feel listened to, they're more likely to commit. And when they DON’T feel listened to, well they’re more likely to keep searching for something — or someone — better.
So how do you get people to commit?
You listen to them. Even if you can’t get behind their suggestions or accommodate all their needs and wants - your job as a leader is to make them feel listened to, and help them understand why you're not adopting their option.
Do this consistently and compassionately and your team is more likely to be committed to whatever decision you make. If they can say, “Well I know she didn't adopt my suggestion, but I feel like she really listened to what I had to say,” they are much less likely to have a strong negative perspective on the final outcome. Your employees will be more likely to engage, commit to, and stick with your plans for success.