Management Success Tip #185: The Non-Rocket Science Art of Listening

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You know how irritating it is when someone you’re talking to, usually a close friend or family member, is texting while you’re trying to get across something really important to you? Or maybe they’re not looking at you, but at something else? Or when they give you that blank stare as in “Whatever you’re saying it’s just so much blabla”?

Now with that close friend or family member, you have the freedom to say “Hey, listen up! This is important!” But when you are texting, looking at something or someone other than the person in front of you, or thinking about something totally unrelated which causes that blank stare, while your employee is trying to get across something really important to them—that employee does not have the freedom to say “Hey, listen up! This is important!” All your employee can do is stand there, feeling disrespected, dismissed and in general, devalued.

Not a great way to manage your peeps! Back in 1957, Ralph G. Nichols and Leonard A. Stevens wrote in a 1957 HBR article (yes, Harvard Business Review existed even waaaay back then); “It can be stated, with practically no qualification, that people in general do not know how to listen. They have ears that hear very well, but seldom have they acquired the necessary aural skills which would allow those ears to be used effectively for what is called listening.” Nichols and Stevens studied thousands of students and hundreds of business people, and what they found was that most retained only 50% of what they had heard—immediately after they’d heard it! And only 25% some six months later.

What does listening involve? Basically, your attention. Your 100% attention on what the person is saying to you, on looking at them, preferably engaging good eye contact, and acknowledging that you are listening by either nodding your head from time to time or saying something like “Uh-huh.”

Not rocket science. But it does mean you can’t be formulating your response while they are talking, nor can you text, daydream, tune out or otherwise withdraw your attention from the individual in front of you.

Accord your employees the basic respect of really listening to them, and they will respect you in turn.

Management Success Tip #183: Wanna Be a Truly Awesome, Stellar, Super-Star of a Manager? Loooove Your Work!

#183 Sira Anamwong

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You know what makes a great manager? A truly awesome, stellar, super-star of a manager? One who looooves his/her work. A manager who is eager to get to work, dives into projects with gusto, and who is inspired by deadlines and quotas rather than defeated or demoralized by them. One who looooves his/her employees, clients, customers. Who knows them inside and out, knows what resonates with them and does his/her very best for and by them, every day.

I fly a lot for work, and thus have been subjected to umpteen routine flight attendant announcements before takeoff: you know, all the safety instructions about seat belts and oxygen masks and the rest. Sometimes a flight attendant will smile during the announcement, and that certainly helps, but most of the time you can tell the attendant is bored, just dishing out a script, with little if any interest in how it is being received, other than clarity of information.

But sometimes, you get a flight attendant, who really knows his/her “clients,” who understands the inconveniences of economy travel, and who must have a supervisor who supports and motivates his/her employees to loooove their job. This is a quick youtube example of just such a flight attendant.

The more you loooove your work, the more you make it easy for your employees to loooove their jobs, the more successful you—and your company—will be.

Look how it’s worked for Southwest airlines! They have been the most successful domestic airline for years, turning a profit when other airlines were going down the tubes. They really are all about the “LUV.”

Not a bad example to follow!

Management Success Tip #167: What’s “Meaningful Work” Anyway? Find Out by Asking!

#167 khunaspix

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People expect more from work now than a paycheck and decent working conditions. Especially the younger generations (read 40 on down) want purpose, a sense that their work is meaningful. It is what makes them happy. Studies have shown that workers are motivated most powerfully by making progress at something that is personally meaningful.

But what is that? What is personally meaningful to one employee may not be personally meaningful to another.

Don’t guess. You’re hardly the man behind the curtain: ask!

What Monique Valcour calls the “coaching” function of management: “. . . restrain your impulse to provide the answers. Your path is not your employeeʼs path. Open-ended questions, not answers, are the tools of coaching. You succeed as a coach by helping your team members articulate their goals and challenges and find their own answers. This is how people clarify their priorities and devise strategies that resonate with what they care about most and that they will be committed to putting into action.”

It may feel odd to you to ask open-ended questions of your employees: “What do you want for yourself this year?” “How do you see yourself developing your talents?” rather than “Do this, do that.” And “Tell me more” as a follow-up may really upset your usual managerial apple-cart. But the little bit of time and effort it may take to work with your employees in this manner will pay off big dividends in terms of their motivation and commitment.

Management Success Tip #166: Want Engaged Employees? Listen and Learn!

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If you really want to insult someone, simply turn your back to them as they are talking to you. Be aware though, you may end up getting pulled rudely back around and even hit for such an act of disrespect.

What you may not realize, is that when you’re texting or answering your phone when an employee is talking to you, you’re engaging in the same disrespectful behavior. You are psychologically turning your back on them. More subtly, if you’re not giving your employee your full attention with your eyes as well as your ears, you are also “turning your back.”

Nothing is more important than not only listening to your employees, but also making it clear to them, by your attention and body language, that you are hearing them. “Employees are almost always telling their bosses how they feel, what they want or what they are doing, but sometimes this falls on deaf ears,” says Piera Palazzolo. “Make sure you listen and hear what your employees are saying to you. This will make you more attentive and caring as a manager, and will also help you know what your team is doing and how you can help them accomplish their goals.”

Isn’t that what you want? To know how your team is doing, and how you can best assist them in accomplishing their goals? When you do that, you end up with engaged, motivated employees who truly care about the company and strive for work-excellence.

Be a better-than-good manager. Join the ranks of the best. Listen and learn!

Management Success Tip #152: Keep Your Newbie’s Enthusiasm Alive With The Big Picture!

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The ability of your employees to engage, to work at the level of their best selves, relies on their psychological well-being at work. What that includes, among other things, is a sense of purpose and meaningfulness in one’s job, a feeling of accomplishment and of contributing to something worthwhile. This is not a big surprise, since one of the most important functions of work is that it brings a sense of purpose to people’s lives. We need to feel that what we do is meaningful and that it has value.

Surely you’ve noticed the “newbie syndrome”? Employees are all gung-ho the first three to six months, and then fall into gung-yawn for the duration of their employment. What’s happened is simple and predictable: employees’ initial passion for the job peters out as they fail to see how what they do matters. They begin to feel like interchangeable parts, pieces of a machine that can do just as well with or without them.

Leadership consultant Lolly Daskal states: “Great leaders supply strategy and clarity. They work hard to understand the big picture and help others see their team’s role, and their individual role as part of the team, within that context.”

Tell your employees how the seemingly boring tasks they’ve been assigned fit into the bigger picture. How their contribution makes a difference. Take it a step further: tell those who report to you how the experiences and skills they are gaining will serve them later on.

Be a great leader: address not only the company’s big picture in discussing the part your employees play, but your employees’ personal big work-picture as well.

Management Success Tip #151: Great Bosses Don’t React, They Respond!

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There is a world of difference between being responsive and being reactive. When you’re reactive, you live in a knee-jerk chaotic environment, where you’re pulled every which way by whatever situation happens to hit in the moment. No thought, no plan, no strategy. Not only does this lead to ineffective management, it’s extremely detrimental to your employees!

Want to win the “Worst Boss Ever” award? According to Karin Hurt, leadership consultant: “Be Reactive – Respond to the biggest fires first with full on urgency. Pull as many people into the mix as you can. When you’re stressed, make sure your team is stressed right along with you.”

A stressed team is, by definition, a poorly functioning team with low morale. Relieve your team’s stress by responding, not reacting.

To respond means to take a pause before leaping into action. Think through the impact and consequences of a number of alternative approaches. Consider what you’re doing before you do it, not once you’re in the middle of doing it.

Your team will thank you for it!

Management Success Tip #131: A Better Approach to Employee Feedback: Adopt the 5:1 Magic Feedback Ratio

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You know that giving feedback is essential to your employees’ ability to perform well, but you’re not always sure about how to best go about it.

The “praise sandwich” – where a manager begins feedback with a dose of praise, then offers the criticism, only to end with another layer of praise – has been much maligned as leading to weak management, among other criticisms.

Unfortunately, some managers have turned to giving purely negative feedback, to the exclusion of positive, in order not to seem “weak.” But this approach weakens the employee-manager relationship itself, hardly the desired outcome.

What to do?  Don’t worry so much about the “sandwich,” focus instead on the ratio of positive to negative comments.

University of Washington psychologist John Gottman has noted in his study of long-term relationships, that in the most successful ones the ratio of positive to negative interactions is 5:1  – even in the midst of a conflict.

That 5:1 ratio has been observed by countless others. It’s an excellent guideline.

Beyond that, put into practice Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s findings: that praising persistent efforts, even in situations where the employee has failed, helps build resilience and determination, while praising talent and ability results in risk-aversion and heightened sensitivity to setbacks.