Really Listening – A Skill Worth Building

Time and again managers tell me they hold regular one on one conversations with their reports. However, when I ask them about those conversations, I learn they are seldom more than a status update. What a lost opportunity!

When I was researching my book, I found that people left their work because of their relationship (or lack thereof) with their managers. What they really wanted was for their manager to listen to them, to value their input, and to respect what they do. But what they encountered, instead, was managers with their own agendas, and a decided lack of interest in what their reports had to say.

One on ones, done well, can lead to a happy and motivated team. They are a way of building connections and communication, providing support and coaching, and providing motivation through career conversations. To make this the best it can be, managers have to really listen.

Asking good questions and really listening to the response is a skill that is well worth building. Don’t be thinking about what you want to say next or, even worse, let your mind drift to what you’re doing after work. You may think no one will notice, but it is absolutely apparent to the person speaking when you’re not paying attention. Think about a time when you were speaking with someone who clearly wasn’t paying attention to what you said. How much do you want to talk to that person going forward?

According to Melanie Whelan, CEO of SoulCycle, great leaders are great listeners. She advises taking time with people to understand what they’re doing, what they need, and how to provide value to them. Be sure to provide the time and space in your one on one conversation to dig into problems in order to fully understand them. Then, once you have a grasp on it, take action. If your team members expect action, and then nothing happens, they’ll soon shut down and not come to you with problems. When that happens, not only do you have a disengaged team, but you also have a bunch of problems that may not come to light before it’s too late. This lack of trust is one of the largest contributors to poor engagement.

Success in business begins with success in employee/manager relationships, which begins with communication. This is the root of trust. Trust affects the quality of relationships, communication, individual effort, and work quality. It’s highly important managers take the time to develop relationships with their team members, and the best way to do it is… (you guessed it!) through one on ones.

If you’re not yet holding regular, frequent, and consistent one on ones, you should be. Managers who regularly meet with their employees have almost triple the level of engagement of those who don’t. If you need help with this, I’ve got it! Reach out to me and I’ll help you with knowledge, support, and templates to get you started.

I'm a true believer in the power of the one on one conversation. Check it out in my book, or bring the concept to your team through my Leading with RESPECT manager training.

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