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!

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Management Success Tip #158: What Matters to Your Employee? Engage Workers by Engaging the Personal

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You work hard to recruit the right people for your department, for your business, and you work equally hard to train them, so that your department is staffed with enthusiastic, engaged, productive employees.

There comes a time, though, when despite your best efforts, some of those employees – often the best ones – become restless, their engagement falls off a bit, and you worry that some of them may feel the grass is greener elsewhere.

Promotions and raises are good, however, as Michael E Kibler, founder and CEO of Corporate Balance Concepts, Inc., states: “More money won’t cut it. . . Companies must instead provide a new kind of currency to engage their professionals – one we call ‘active partnering.’ The first step is to create a system that allows executives to talk candidly with their managers about what is most important to them professionally and personally and how their organizations might support these goals…”

Although Kibler is referencing executives, the same thinking applies to any of your employees. When you demonstrate real interest, followed by practical assistance, steps or resources, in what matters personally as well as professionally to your employees, you engage them on a whole new level.

It doesn’t matter, as Kibler states, whether those interests are “… writing a book, reconnecting with a disenfranchised family member, starting a non-profit” or the more “prosaic – running a 10K, coaching a child’s soccer team, volunteering as a mentor,” the genuine interest you show, along with discussing possible ways to assist your employee in achieving his or her dream (and following through!), develop a mutual respect and loyalty which dollars alone can never do.

Management Success Tip #144: Use Targeted Questions to Get Employees Past the Fear-of-Change Boogeyman.

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Change upsets us. We grow used to a certain way of doing things, and even when it’s not terribly efficient, we’re usually more comfortable with that tried-and-true way, than we are with something new, even if it promises to be way more effective.

So it’s no big surprise that some of your employees buck that change you so desperately need them to accept.

Kevin Eikenberry offers a number of ways to approach their resistance, the first of which are:

“1. Understand the source of the reluctance. People have a reason – rational or emotional (or likely a combination of the two) – why they don’t want to make a particular change. The first mistake leaders make is assuming you know why. Even if your people have shared their reasons in the past, it is important to ask them about their concerns and reservations this time. Do this in as authentic and non-threatening way as you can. Your goal it to truly understand what they are thinking and feeling about the change. (In order to do that you must . . .)

2.  Shut up and listen. Your goal isn’t to convince them or influence them at this point. Your goal is only to listen to their responses. Respond only with follow-up questions designed to truly understand where they are in regards to the change.”

How common-sensical is that! Ask, with a genuine intent to find out what’s really going on, and then listen, again, with a genuine intent to discover the source of the resistance.

Once you address your employees’ concerns, regardless of how meaningful or absurd you believe they are, your employees will be far more willing to go along with your so ardently desired change.

Management Success Tip #129: Be a Great Manager: Listen So Your Employees Feel Heard.

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The best managers are terrific listeners. You may think you’re a good listener – after all you do attend to whatever your employees are saying, and you hear every word. But that may not be enough to convince whoever you’re listening to believe they are really being heard.

What research calls “empathic listening” involves more than just your ears. Really listening to someone requires attention to nonverbal cues as well: such things as tone, facial expressions and other body language. Not just the other person’s tone, facial expressions and body language, but your own!

Few things are more insulting than to be talking to someone and have them turn away from you. Well, if you drop your eye contact when you’re talking to or listening to someone, that’s experienced very much as if you’d just walked away mid-sentence.

Similarly, if you sit there like a stone when an employee talks to you, without allowing your face and/or body language to reflect your attentiveness, they will not feel heard. One of the easiest ways to express attentiveness, is to nod every so often as in “I hear you, I’m following along, please go on.”

And of course, responding with phrases such as “Thank you for letting me know how you feel about this situation, your input is valuable,” or “Please, tell me more” or “I’d like to hear more about your thoughts on the situation” and the like will go a long way towards letting your employee know that he or she truly is heard.

Management Success Tip #71: Not All Under-Performers Are Created Equal: Nurture Your Good-Performers-In-The-Making!

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Managers typically don’t like to deal with under-performers. After all, what’s more fun: congratulating your super-star on his/her latest achievement? Or dunning an employee for yet AGAIN, not getting it right.

Under-performers get short shrift in the honest-feedback department. Mostly because you’d rather get rid of them than nurture them into good performance. And certainly, there are those who are just not a fit for the job. However, don’t punish those who are a decent fit, by giving them less than your best.

Be honest. Tell your under-performing employee what, specifically, they are doing that’s not up to par. Then, give them a chance to improve. Give them an opportunity to take a seminar, assign a buddy/mentor to them. Tell them what positive traits or abilities you observe that your under-performing employee can bring to bear in their area of challenge: perhaps it’s their persistence, or their attention to detail, or their willingness to learn.

Be interested in their development. Check in to see how they’re doing. Find out what their personal career goals are and foster those. The more you show an active, genuine interest in your under-performer’s own goals, the more likely they are to want to demonstrate active, genuine interest in yours.

Management Success Tip #49: Make it Easy for Employees to Hear You: Slow Down!

You have too much to do, so what else is new? Which means the pace you set for yourself is rushed from the moment you hit the office door. Everything about you is fast: your walk, your emails, your talk. Sure, your department gets a lot done in a day, but you get more from your employees if you would simply—slow down.

Yup, you read that right. Slow down. Not with everything necessarily, just with the way you talk and listen.

You see, when you talk too fast, you may save time, but your employees have probably missed half of what you said.

It takes time for the human brain to ingest information. It doesn’t go straight from your mouth into your employee’s brain. What you say goes from your mouth, into your employee’s ears, into their brain, where it has to connect up with something already meaningful to your employee, at which point what you said is actually understood and can now be acted upon.

When you speak too fast, often without engaging eye contact, you don’t allow for that information processing to take place, and your employee then has to play mental catch-up for the information to connect up. Which the employee may not do accurately, or at least not exactly how you would have wished.

Slow down. Take the time to engage eye contact before you speak to an employee, use his or her name, and speak in phrases, not run-on sentences. Take a brief pause (count “1, 2” silently to yourself) before you check in with your employee to make sure they understood.

Your chances of being correctly heard and your directives properly acted upon will be greatly enhanced.

Management Success Tip #47: Use the Power of the Written Word to Increase Your Impact

You know how, when someone writes something down, suddenly it gets all serious? Like when the cop pulls you over, you can banter all you want, but when he pulls out his ticket pad, it’s over. Or the car salesperson can sweet-talk you shamelessly, but when that sales agreement is handed over, it’s the written down parts that determine what comes out of your wallet.

What’s written down always has more impact than the spoken word. If you want to have impact with your employees, write their comments down.

For example, you’re in a team meeting. Instead of just listening with your ears, listen by writing down key points, things your team members say that you deem particularly significant, or worth discussing further.  Your team members will be impressed by the seriousness with which you are taking their thoughts, and as a result, will come up with even better ideas.

Or an employee comes in with a complaint or a problem. Same drill. Make notes, in front of your employee, of the key points or matters for further discussion. Your employee now knows you’re not just giving him or her lip service, as in “Yeah, uh-huh, whatever.” You really are paying attention to what he or she has on their mind—because you wrote it down.

Never underestimate the power of the written word! Use it to increase your impact and effectiveness.