Balance

Management is a busy and demanding role. The time to listen to staff concerns can just get filled up. What is the impact of this for your staff?listening-cartoon-2

Making time for listening may pay management dividends. Listening should be a powerful part of your management toolbox.

I recently interviewed a very depressed and disempowered  staff member. She talked of how her manager would ask her ‘how are you?’ when he arrived at work. She had tried answering honestly to this default non-question by raising some problems she was having with her role. He brushed her off and continue on to his office. She had given up trying to talk to him. She said he didn’t care about her or the staff in general, only about getting his own job done. His staff had lost confidence in his ability to deal with a complex office problem which had developed into a bitter dispute. This was having a substantial impact on the morale in the office.

Why is listening important? Intervening early in difficult family situations can help children at risk from developing long term problems. Listening is an early intervention tool that can head off workplace problems before they get entrenched. It is time well spent if you want to empower your staff to solve their own issues and importantly, want them to feel that you care about them.

Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of the power of ‘deep listening’. He advises that just listening with compassion to someone, even if what they say is full of wrong perceptions and bitterness, can help them to suffer less with the situation. He suggests that correcting wrong perceptions or giving advice should be a second step after listening.

Balance your listening time by setting a time for your meeting with a staff member, but hold off on the advice. Pull back on that impulse to tell them what to do so you can get back to all those things you have to get done.  Try asking them what they might do to remedy the problem. Once you allow them to unload they may be in a better place to consider how to solve the problem themselves. You may not have to do anything more. Listening may save you time.

Beware of the perception your staff are developing of you and its impact on their commitment and loyalty. People commit to people, not to a business. Nothing will inspire your staff to do their best more than knowing that you care about them.

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