Learning & Development, Talent

Encouraging Better Listening from Managers

In most professional environments, our bosses are generally a far cry from the stereotypical bully bosses caricatured in movies and TV shows. While there are certainly exceptions, it’s generally safe to expect them to be supportive advocates rather than adversaries.

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At the same time, many bosses aren’t necessarily the greatest listeners, and this can be a big organizational problem. Here are just a few reasons that managers’ having strong listening skills is critical for any organization.

Understanding Whether Instructions Are Understood

Too often, managers are surprised when employees continue behavior the managers sought to correct or return work products that fail to meet stated requirements or objectives. The problem often isn’t an intentional disregard for the manager’s instructions but rather a misunderstanding or miscommunication.

One of the most important times a manager should be a good listener is right after he or she has given instructions. This is a crucial time to ask for feedback from staff to ensure instructions were properly received and understood.

Understanding Employee Problems

One of the fundamental responsibilities of a manager is to help employees remove obstacles preventing them from getting their work done. A manager is a source of escalation and a problem-solver.

But if the manager isn’t good at listening to employee concerns and problems, he or she won’t be able to effectively solve those problems, and productivity and morale will suffer.

Bottom-Up Solutions

Problem-solving can go both ways in any organization. Often, frontline employees will have some of the best insights and solutions when problems emerge because they are the ones working through many common issues day in and day out.

It can be a huge mistake to fail to solicit feedback or have an open ear when team members suggest solutions to the problems they encounter in their regular activities.

Managers have important roles as decision-makers and task-setters in any organization, and there is a company hierarchy for a reason. But that doesn’t mean that all communication should be top-down.

It’s essential that managers be effective listeners, both to address problems and to ensure their own instructions have been effectively communicated.