There have been a number of studies showing that employees value and trust their direct supervisor’s messaging more than the 2nd line or even the CEO. The direct supervisor is a constant in their lives and likely to experience what they experience when they hear upper-level leaders talk. In engagement studies, communication and trust are generally the lowest rated items.
Active listening revolves around empathy. Good managers are empathetic and can put themselves in their employees’ shoes. By doing so, leaders can help employees understand work and negotiate around difficult things such as childcare and time to complete assignments.
Active listening with empathy by leaders at all levels, according to Jennifer Hirsch, VP at The Grossman Group, involves the following:
- Listen without interruption
- Pause and imagine how your employee is feeling
- Show you hear them by reflecting back what they are saying: “What I hear you saying is…”
- Validate their feelings: “I understand you’re feeling…”
- Offer support and close the conversation
- Follow up to see how the person is doing after a little time has passed
Employees want to know that they are being heard. The most difficult aspect is validating feelings. The fact is the employee may feel a certain way simply because they don’t know all the facts. At times the employee has no right to know. At other times, employees simply won’t listen if facts are provided. The best one can do in this situation is validate with qualifiers: “I understand how you are feeling but . . .”
If the manager is not a good listener, coach them in the following ways to improve their active listening skills per Ms. Hirsch:
- Approach each dialogue with the goal to learn something. Think of the person as someone who can teach you.
- Stop talking and focus closely on the speaker. Suppress the urge to think about what you’re going to say next or to multitask.
- Encourage with positive feedback. If you can see that a speaker has some trouble expressing a point or lacks confidence, encourage him or her with a smile, a nod, or a positive question to show your interest.
- Listen for total meaning. Understand that in addition to what is being said, the real message may be non-verbal or emotional. Checking body language is one way to seek true understanding.
- Pay attention to your responses. Remember that the way you respond to a question also is part of the dialogue. Keep an open mind and show respect for the other person’s point of view even if you disagree with it.
This process is not a one-time thing. Managers can fall out of the active listening mode as easily as they attempt it. HR should continually coach and reinforce the active listening skill, whether by coaching, sending them to training, or otherwise working with managers in other ways.
A culture that does not enforce active listening by leaders is a culture that will likely have greater dysfunction and turnover – not a good approach in this labor market. What happens at work may have positive consequences for managers’ home lives as well – a nice residual. Happy employees equate to a more productive workforce.
ASE Related Training Courses:
Principles and Practices of Supervision I
This course provides the foundational skills for supervisors, either new or experienced. This nuts-and-bolts class looks at popular managerial models and provides practical tools and knowledge to help supervisors conquer the ten most critical tasks of a supervisor. This is a multi-session course over several weeks.
Principles and Practices of Supervision II
This class is the sequel to Principles and Practices of Supervision I. This class builds on the nuts and bolts learning in Principles I and takes a look at the strategic and leadership aspect of the supervisor role. In this class, supervisors look at ways they can influence their teams for better performance and some things that might hinder their success. This class provides supervisors an opportunity to gain insight into how they supervise. This is a multi-session course over several weeks.
View Upcoming Principles and Practices Courses
Courageous Conversations That Impact Employee Performance
Having courageous conversations with others defines your leadership ability and success in influencing and motivating. Leaders should focus on effectively listening to what others are really saying, asking the right questions without judgment to get others to be open-minded, and viewing options with clarity. This course teaches leaders how to provide encouragement and developmental feedback to reinforce and guide successful employee performance.
View Upcoming Courageous Conversations That Impact Employee Performance
Supervise with Success
This course will define the role and responsibilities of a supervisor. Participants will practice techniques to develop relationships, deliver feedback, delegate, make decisions, and conduct effective meetings. This course is ideal for those new to the field of supervision.
View Upcoming Supervise with Success Courses
Participants will learn about the principles of leadership and how they can be used in any organization to foster integrity and create positive change. This course provides insight on how to be an outstanding leader and achieve excellence in self and others.
View Upcoming Leadership Essentials Courses
This course will increase participants understanding of the relevance and importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). It will explore ways to improve participants EQ and develop an action plan in order to be more successful in the workplace.
View Upcoming Emotional Intelligence Courses
Source: Leader Communication Blog 10/3/22