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How to Really Listen to Employees

Mikaela Kiner
How to Really Listen to Employees Can you tell when someone's listening intently? I can. They're actively engaged, making eye contact, and fully taking in my comments, not thinking about the next thing they're going to say. I know I'm being seen and heard, and the listener respects what I have to say.

Employees want to experience the same thing – to be seen, heard, and recognized for their input. Recent  HBR research  demonstrates that experiencing high–quality listening can positively shape employees' emotions and attitudes. The same research notes that managers who listen well are perceived as “people leaders, generate more trust, instill higher job satisfaction, and increase their team's creativity.”

Failing to listen to the people around you can have serious consequences. PopCap's founder John Vechey (now CEO of PlutoVR)  related  how the company almost took a $300M buyout deal that would have been seriously detrimental to the company because the leadership team wasn't listening to their employees and board executives. “We not only would have gotten a horrible deal at the time, but we also would have had to layoff one of our studios,” he says. “By listening, you can really learn something. And when your own fears or insecurities or worries are driving you, the only thing you can really do is listen to those people around you.”

How do you become a great listener? It takes practice and training. Here are some tips from the HBR study, and what I've learned as an HR/people operations leader:

Give the speaker your full attention:
This means putting away your phone, closing your laptop and making eye contact with the speaker so they know you're listening. Don't pretend to listen. If you need a minute before you can give your full attention, say so.

Don't interrupt:
When listening to employees, you're going to have thoughts and want to interject your own solutions. Don't. Resist the urge to talk before the speaker indicates they're done for the moment. Moving fast is not an excuse for interrupting.

Don't judge:
Step back from evaluating or imposing your own opinions and solutions.  If you notice you're distracted by your judgmental thoughts, it's OK to politely ask the speaker to repeat themselves. Seek to understand first, before reacting.

Ask good questions:
Prioritize the speakers' needs before your own when asking questions. Ask well–crafted questions that help the speaker uncover new insights. One of the best questions to ask “Is there anything else?” This gives employees the opportunity to share new information and can uncover unexpected opportunities.

Reflect back what you heard:  take some time to reflect what you heard and learned. Reflecting back what you learned is a powerful way to show that you're listening, and reinforces what you heard. If you've misunderstood, this gives your team a chance to correct you.

Need some guidance on how to become a better leader who listens? Do you want to help your company establish ways to better listen to employees to harness their best thinking and ideas? We can help.  Connect with us today  for a free consulting conversation. We'd love to hear from you!

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Need some guidance on how to become a better leader who listens? Do you want to help your company establish ways to better listen to employees to harness their best thinking and ideas? We can help.

 Call:  800-433-2320 Text:  503-850-7721
Mikaela KinerMikaela Kiner, CEO & Founder of Reverb, is a native Seattleite who's spent the last fifteen years in HR leadership roles at iconic Northwest companies including Microsoft, Amazon, PopCap Games and Redfin. She has an MS in HR Management with a certificate in Organizational Development and is an ICF credentialed coach. Mikaela delivers results by building trust and engaging her clients in creative problem solving. Clients appreciate her strategic thinking and hands on execution. You can find Mikaela on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

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