Is anybody listening?

When I’m asked to name the most important communication quality or skill required for effective leadership, my answer is immediate – be a good listener.  So many of the day-to-day challenges facing managers, chefs and team leaders have their origin in misunderstood or misheard communication.

There are many reasons why your listening may not be strong enough. Poor listening habits build up over time. Like any skill, consistent practice is needed to reach and then maintain a high level of competency.

It’s also quite common for your staff to adopt the communication habits of the senior staff in the business. If your listening is poor, don’t be surprised if that becomes the default amongst your staff.

You need to model the communication standards you expect from your team.

How often have you found yourself getting frustrated on shift with a staff member because they appear to be underperforming a task after you’ve given a simple, clear instruction? Have you considered this may be due to poor listening?

Poor listening can mean more workplace communication getting put in writing as verbal communication isn’t reliable enough. How many emails could be eliminated at work if you could rely on verbal communication?

After many years of training and coaching leadership communication techniques, I want to share the following simple tips to help you improve the average standard of listening in your workplace.

Rephrasing is an effective technique to improve everyone’s listening.

When you rephrase a message back in your own words to the satisfaction of speaker, it shows you were paying attention and listening properly.

When you request that the listener rephrases an important message back to your satisfaction, it shows how well or not the other person was listening.

Remember, if the listener can’t summarise what was said in their own words and make sense, it’s likely they haven’t understood the message.

If rephrasing is introduced into your workplace positively, this simple technique can greatly improve the average effectiveness of everyone’s listening quite rapidly.

Key take-aways

When you display strong listening skills, it shows respect for the other person. It also tends to self-perpetuate.

As your team’s listening improves, there will be less misunderstanding and confusion. You will be able to spend more of your time on positive coaching and development, rather than correcting and fixing mistakes caused by poor listening.

If your own listening improves, you’re likely to discover that your team have a lot to contribute towards the evolution and development of your business. Think about all the potential solutions to workplace problems that your staff might contribute if you ask them for their opinion, then listen carefully to what they say.

If you’re interested to learn more about effective leadership communication techniques, consider attending our How To Lead 2 day workshop – communication essentials for hospitality leaders.

Ben Walter