By Jeremy Koellish, COO
If you have ever met me in person, the first thing you will notice is that I am in perpetual motion. And when I am not at work running around and bounding up the stairs…I am literally running. That said, I, perhaps more than most, work on drawing my attention toward slowing down, breathing and listening. I prioritize listening because I know it is important for myself and my company. Knowing yourself and your own barriers to being a good listener is the first step to making sure your employees feel like they can speak freely.
Here are some other tips:
1. Be your employee.
For many of us executives and managers, we forget what it is like to be on the other end of the conversation. What may seem like light-hearted dialog to a manager, may feel like an interrogation to an employee. A great way to get in the right headspace is to remember how much courage it takes to speak with a supervisor – especially if it is an uncomfortable conversation or he or she has something important to report. That way, even if you may disagree with what someone is saying, you can summon the empathy needed to hear them out and build that trust required to work through issues together. Empathy also means laying off the heavy-handed advice, try guidance instead.
2. Devices, down.
I’m in IT, so of course, there is always a crisis, and putting the device down in hard to do. But no matter what way you cut it, the minute you start checking your email or responding to texts while someone from your team has taken the time to speak with you, you are sending the signal that you are not interested in what he or she has to say. Nothing says you don’t care like avoiding eye contact.
3. Chill out.
Our conscious minds can only process like 40 bits of information a second. So, by the time you are deep into a conversation with an employee – particularly if it is a meaningful one where the stakes are high – that does not leave a lot of energy or attention for reminding yourself to be the best listener you can be. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is impossible, though. Breathe, focus on controlling your reactions and do your best to be still and just listen. As trust with your team grows and the conversations are flowing, you will be happy you did.