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Managers and executives beware: Active listening is becoming an overlooked skill

October 2012

Many of you can relate to this incident: You have an appointment with your boss. As soon as the meeting began, the executive calls the personal assistant for a dictation of a message.

After the dictation, the telephone suddenly rings and the conversation goes on for more than five minutes.

Then the executive suddenly turned to you and said: "Please continue." Then two colleagues enter the room and request the executive to sign urgent payments. The executive took time to read the two memos. Then the executive’s cellular phone rings. While the caller talked, the executive just listened for a few minutes, indicating it was a private call.

By the time the executive finished talking with the caller, you had lost interest to continue with the meeting you had taken time to prepare for. You respectfully inform the boss that you will schedule another meeting for another time. As you stood to leave the well furnished office, the assistant enters the room to remind the boss of another meeting.

Active listening is an overlooked skill in an era of hurried schedules, high-tech overload, and economic anxieties.

It is really tragic that many managers and executives do not respect the importance of paying attention, interpreting, remembering and showing interest in effectively listening to their colleagues no matter the rank or position.

It is a pity that the dearth of good listening leaves workers feeling frustrated and disconnected from their leaders.

How does one detect effective listening? Through good eye contact, nonverbal signals; affirmative head nods and appropriate facial expressions and in this era of instant messaging, not fiddling on the smart phone. An active listener tries to understand what the speaker wants to communicate rather than pretend to be a multi-tasker.

A manager who shows interest in listening to colleagues encourages them; inspires loyalty; and preserves healthy relationships and colleagues will always look forward to a meeting.

Listening is the skill of being in the conversation, rather than being in your own conversation. Listening demands critical thinking.

Real connections can't happen without effective listening. By using non-verbal communication--like nodding or smiling--you are showing the speaker that you are actively listening to what they are saying. So you can also use your face as well as your ears to be an active listener.

So as a manager or executive, concentrate on what others are saying, send the nonverbal messages that you are listening by maintaining eye contact and not using your your smart phone during a meeting. Avoid early evaluations by trying to guess what the speaker is going to say next and avoid getting defensive. Active listening does not mean that you will always agree with the other party's point of view. Remember to practice paraphrasing, that art of putting into your own words what you thought you heard or ask questions to clarify points or to obtain additional information.

Remember that thoughts move about four times as fast as speech. So, while you are listening you will also be able to think about what you are hearing, really understand it and give feedback to the speaker.

A good listener is not only popular everywhere but after a while he gets to know something.

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