Better listening skills for management

Better listening skills for management

If you are to be a great leader, one thing you need to master the art of is listening. And by this, we mean really listening! Too many managers make the mistake of simply listening so that they can speak. I’m going to talk you through some of the listening skills you need to develop in order to become a better manager. I am the MD of Cotter Marketing, which is the leading industrial product distributor in Ireland. I have been in senior management for over 30 years, overseeing a large team with an average tenure of 20 years.

Why is it important to develop your listening skills?

Before I take you through some of the different things that you can do in order to improve your listening skills, let’s take a look at the different reasons why this is so important. Listening properly shows that you care, and when your employees know that you care, they tend to work harder in an attempt to exceed your expectations. You also engage yourself in matters that are important to your workforce. Listening properly will enable you to show empathy too, which is vital in the workplace, and you will become expansively mindful. Effective leaders are very mindful of their surroundings. They know how to listen actively beyond the obvious via both non-verbal and verbal communication. They are tuned into the dynamics of the workforce, and this enables them to be more effective leaders. 

Advice on becoming a better listener

Now that you know why becoming a better listener is important, let’s take a look at some of the different ways you can improve your listening skills. 

Be present in the moment 

Firstly, you need to show respect to the person you’re engaging in a conversation with. Put down your mobile phone and focus fully on the person that is speaking. Make sure you ask relevant questions. The aim is to make sure that there is an open and free flow of ideas and information. To do this, you are going to need to be fully in the moment. In order to pay attention while you are listening, this does not only mean paying attention to the words but also the body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. These cues are going to give you details that are just as vital as the words themselves. 

Keep quiet while they are speaking 

Aside from this, you should keep quiet when the other person is speaking. Make sure that 80 per cent of the conversation is devoted to listening to what the person has to say, and then only 20 per cent should be devoted to speaking yourself. 

Create a mental map 

You also need to make sure you fully listen to the words that are being spoken and try to create a mental model of what is being said. Whether it is an arrangement of abstract concepts or a literal picture, your brain will do the key work to keep you focused. You will need to maintain focus too. 

Ask great questions

You should also develop curiosity. Conversations are learning opportunities. People that have natural curiosity recognise this, and they are always looking for ways to learn something new. You should also practice active listening. What does this mean? Well, when someone is speaking, most people are thinking about what they are going to say next. Instead of doing this, you need to have complete focus on what the other person is saying. It is good to pretend that you are going to be tested about the conversation, and this will ensure you fully listen to what the person has to say. 

Challenging key points 

Other key pieces of advice include picking up on the key points and challenging assumptions. Good listeners always seek to understand and even challenge what they are hearing. It is also wise to put yourself in their shoes. Make an effort to think about where the person is coming from and why they are saying what they are. This will help you to show that you appreciate their efforts. 

As you can see, there are a number of different ways that you can improve your listening skills as a manager. In order to be considered a great manager, mastering the art of listening properly is essential. 

Use the advice that has been provided in this blog post as a starting point and you are bound to notice some improvements. 

Author: John is Managing Director of Cotter Marketing, Ireland’s leading manufacturing product distributor. They specialise in the supply of Gaskets and Vacuum Pumps to some of the biggest pharmaceutical and manufacturing brands in the world.

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