How to Get Your Way by Listening
For entrepreneurs or managers, the best way to lead people is to listen to them well. The time when leaders would just issue orders and expect people to faithfully obey has long gone. Now you must be willing to adapt your style to get results.
All the advantages of being a good listener are too numerous to list down in this short article. Being a good listener enables you to know how to motivate your workforce since you can find out what they value. You can make better decisions since you are able to unearth the real situation.
Here are some tips to be a good listener:
• Shut off your cell phone. Focus on the person speaking. Do not do other things; this is one situation in which you must not multi-task. One of the most common violations of this is the frequent texting or receiving of calls. The urge to do this is almost impossible to resist so I recommend turning your cellphone off, putting it on silent, or putting it in a place where you won’t hear it.
• Be careful with your expressions and demeanor. It is not only what you say but also how you conduct yourself that matters. Although you should not disregard your knowledge of the situation, it is also important not to give the impression that you are biased. There are many people who will accept a decision not favorable to them so long as they feel their side has been properly heard. On the other hand, there are even a lot more who will feel deeply aggrieved if it appears that you have not given them a chance to explain their side. This happens if from the start, it is obvious that you have already taken sides in the issue.
• Avoid looking at your watch. Unless you want to terminate the conversation in the worst possible way, avoid glancing at your watch or the nearest wall clock. The person will rightly think that you want to do something else. If this is your intention, then it would be far more polite to tell this directly instead of trying to send this not-so-subtle signal. However, this is very hard to do especially if you have so many urgent things to finish.
• Do not humiliate the person. Saving face should always be done as long as your objectives would not be compromised. This is one of the most difficult skills to acquire because you may be misinterpreted as agreeing to what they said if you are not careful with your words and tone of voice. Some tips on how to handle this is to avoid personal attacks. For example, instead of calling the person a liar if you catch him saying something false, you could simply point out the inconsistency in his statement.
• Listen to learn. You may be the boss but even the lowest ranking employee knows something you do not. If you are humble enough to be open to the fact that there is much to learn from the lower ranks, you may get information that is extremely useful. Frequently, such knowledge is naturally acquired by people who are nearest the customers or the factory floor.
• Prepare for the conversation. The more important the discussion, the more time you should get ready. Even the less crucial talks merit adequate preparation. Lack of preparation results in wasted opportunities and wasted time. The most important thing is to establish the objectives. Are you on a fact-finding mission? Do just wish to motivate your staff? Or will the talk be a precursor to something drastic like a termination or a major investment? Verify the facts surrounding the questions and plan on how to best handle the talk. With more knowledge, you can better understand what is being said, as well as the context of the situation. Do not forget that you are working and that this is not a personal discussion. Always be prepared.
• Take notes while listening. This has several advantages. First is that the speaker will feel that you are giving due importance to what he is saying and this will encourage him to give more and better information besides boosting his motivation. Second is that it will help reduce the need to interrupt when you want to speak so that you would not forget what you want to say later on. And third is to make sure you do not forget what was discussed.
• Observe non-verbal signs. Nonverbal signs are just as important as verbal ones. In fact, whole books have been written on understanding body language. What you say must tally with your demeanor, otherwise it is not reliable. Sharpen your skills in deciphering the unsaid so that you will improve your understanding.
What was discussed is just a sampling of what you need to do to listen well. Proficiency in this talent can only come with constant practice. Still, the effort you will invest is small compared to the enthusiastic cooperation you will gain from an appreciative workforce.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.