As a manager listening to your employees and actually hearing and understanding them is key. It is also important to be able to do the same for your customers. Listening is a skill that must be developed and mastered. It has to be practiced, and it has to be understood, otherwise it is not easy to do right. The best listening is done with the eyes, ears, and heart. Sounds cheesy, but it is true.
Eyes are important because often the manner which a message is given is far more important than the message itself. The content of the message may be extremely different from the body language that it is given with. A person may say they are having a great time, but their body language might say otherwise. You have to learn to listen not just to the words, but use your eyes to determine if the words are supported by what you see.
When you use your eyes to listen, ask yourself the following questions:
Who am I listening to? What is their role, relationship, station, and their importance to my success? This will help you better interpret the things you see in relation to the content of the spoken message.
Why am I listening to them? Are their needs being met, are yours? What can you and they gain from this? Knowing this information helps to put things in perspective.
What amount of time do you have to spend? Are you or they in a hurry, anxious, relaxed? Sometimes what you see does not correlate with the content of the message because they are rushed or stressed. Take this into consideration.
Ears: Are you truly listening, or are you trying to formulate a response? Do not have divided attention, instead do what you can to make them your focus, or reschedule. When you listen with your ears it is key that you are actually listening. If an employee comes in, you need to turn away from the computer, etc. and focus on them, and really listen. If you can't do that at the moment, then let them know, and ask them to return when you can give them your undivided attention.
Care what they have to say. If they feel that you care, it will be easier for them to be open and honest with you.Value them as a person. When someone feels valued, they are far more honest and open, and communication is far improved.
Listening with the ears, eyes, and heart allows you to better understand what others are saying, and better understand how you feel about what they say. This will help you to choose the appropriate actions as a result. It takes time, effort, and practice to become a great listener. With the increased ability to listen comes an increase in the ability to empathize, and support others.