“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” —Bryant H. McGill
Your employees have a huge impact on your day-to-day operations; what they have to say is important. The information that those on the front lines have to offer is extremely valuable. They are the ones with their fingers on the pulse of the organization. If you REALLY listen to what they have to say you might be able to head off problems early, learn something you don’t know, and get some great ideas. When employees know that you care about their point of view and value what they have to say, you build strong relationships and improve your organizational culture.
No ‘us vs. them’
If you want to hear what your employees actually have to say, you must eliminate any ‘us vs. them’ mentality in your organization. This mentality puts people in defensive mode. When we are on the defense, we are not even capable of higher order thinking let alone expressing ourselves in any meaningful way.
To actually hear what your employees are saying you must offer them multiple opportunities to communicate; a variety of settings and a variety of methods. Then, stop talking and listen. Show that you are attentive, ready and interested in what they have to say. When you aren’t focused on what you want to say, it opens the space to hear what others are saying and to notice what they’re not saying.
If you care about what your employees have to say, ask questions. Seems like common sense, but it doesn’t happen as often as it should. Ask what’s working and what’s not. Is there anything we should stop doing? What do we need to start doing? Ask them for input and feedback. And, don’t just ask work related questions; ask how they are doing. Let them know you care about them personally. Encourage them to ask you questions. Be honest with them. When you learn to ask the right questions you can get to the core of what your employees are actually saying.
Acknowledge what you’ve heard
One of the biggest factors in hearing what your employees are actually saying is acknowledging what you’ve heard. Verify that you understand what they are saying and demonstrate that you can see it from their perspective. Give them the opportunity to elaborate when necessary. Express appreciation for the information and feedback they provide.
Watch their energy
If you want to REALLY understand what your employees are saying, watch their energy. Their energy will send non-verbal information that helps you, as the listener, tap into what is really behind their words. Are they energetic and positive, showing passion? Are they subdued, showing lack of hope? Do they appear scattered, showing frustration or stress? The most productive conversations take place when you work together to build positive energy.
What are They Actually Saying?
Hearing what your employees are actually saying takes consistent effort. You can’t just be open to listening once in a while, it must be constant. You must eliminate even the perception of an ‘us vs. them’ mentality. You must stop talking. You need to ask the right questions. Acknowledge what you’ve heard. You must watch their energy with as much attention as you listen. You must learn to hear what is not being said as much as what is being said. In most communication there is more substance behind the words than is contained in the words. Care enough to hear what your employees are actually saying.
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