Guest post by Diane Pierre-Louis
The best leaders are nearly always excellent communicators. Clear and productive communication between management and staff is a great stage-setter for a successful and rewarding workplace environment. Whether you feel that you’re already communicating well with your employees or know this is an area that needs polishing, it’s always wise to review some common-sense strategies.
Listen with Intent
The art of meaningful listening requires effort and practice, but it is well worth the effort in the end. Generally, most of us are pretty lousy listeners. Although we might keep our mouths shut, we’re mostly likely just biding our time until the other person is finished and we can have our say. We think we know what our conversation partner will say next, so we plan our responses, which means we are not honestly listening. How can we possibly understand what someone means if our attention is silently focused elsewhere? Pay attention and be an active listener. And whatever you do, don’t interrupt.
Pay Attention to Tone and Body Language
Body language is often more telling than the words that leave our mouth. As you’re listening to your employee, be an active observer as well as an attentive listener. Body language experts assert that 90% of how we communicate is nonverbal, so what we do with our body and facial expressions are as powerful as the words we speak. Practice using open body language that indicates you are receptive and willing to enter into a healthy conversation. This can include leaving your arms by your sides instead of crossing them and leaning slightly toward the speaker.
Tone of voice is also important. Unless we listen to recordings of ourselves regularly, it’s hard for us to relate to how our voice sounds. Be aware that your voice may indicate how tired, stressed, bored or irritated you are – even if your words indicate otherwise.
Follow up on Conversations
Don’t depart from a meeting without restating what you just heard. That will go a long way to eliminating the possibility of misunderstandings. Also, get into the habit of sending a quick email recapping what was discussed in a meeting or other work-related gathering. Often, employees bring up questions or concerns during a meeting, so a prompt follow-up addressing those issues is a valuable communication tool that lets your staff know you were listening and that you care.
Great leaders know that a company’s fortunes will rise and fall on the contributions of its employees. Creating an environment that promotes open communication among all employees and supervisors will foster the trust and collaboration necessary for long-term success.
The Product Management Perspective: One of the best ways to show customers you care about them is to truly listen to them. Too often product managers hear the words coming out of a customer’s mouth and immediately start talking about how their product will solve the problem, rather than listening to find the root of the problem and seeking answers. Most product managers understand that customers are not always right. However, it is always in your best interest to listen to them and understand what they are saying.