Effective listening in the workplace and why it's important

ShowUp Team | Published: July 17, 2020

In his Tedtalk - “Confessions of a Recovering Micromanager”, Chieh Huang shares his personal insights on what he learned about keeping his staff happy.

Huang describes what it was like for him to develop his own company called ‘Boxed’ from his garage. When he started out he was the only one who was packing and adding personalized notes with each shipment. 36 months later he found himself managing the people who managed the people who packed and wrote the personalized notes.

The lesson that sticks with him the most he stated happened when he realised his staff were unhappy and morale was down. He wasn’t listening to what his staff could add to the personalized notes; up to that point he was dictating what to write and how to write it. He learned to value his staff by listening and comprehending their need for autonomy and the opportunity to develop their own personal brand. He helped them do this by being clear on his company mission.

It was only then that he was able to give his staff the freedom to execute their own personal style of delivery. Once he was open to listening to the creative ideas from his staff, he was able to give his staff the tool to nurture their innovation and creativity while trusting them to stay aligned with his company mission.

Effective listening drives innovation as it builds on trust. This trust is essential for a company to maintain morale and continue to grow together and expand. Being able to follow through on the needs that are heard does take a person out of their comfort zone. There is a necessary component in effective listening in the way of having to let go of control and be accepting of others perspectives.

To help with this:

  1. Know your mission: write and articulate a clear concise mission statement to the team. Review it regularly and ask for ideas on how team members see it happening.
  2. Create a safe environment where there is no judgement in the discussion of ideas. This includes allowing thoughts and ideas to be expressed without interruption, and expressing non-verbal cues such as eye contact and encouraging nods to further signal appreciation and support of shared ideas.

Effective listening starts with understanding what your current perception is, and a willingness to release what you think, to create what you can learn.

The goal is to always leave your team feeling inspired and not shut down. It’s not to emphasize you disagree; rather it is to listen with interest, reframe the idea by adding your own thoughts, and articulate it back with empathy, compassion, and in gratitude of what was shared and how it can be built on.

Engaging with listening effectively can help build those trusting relationships. It adds to your team knowing where they stand and being able to align with the plan. Just because you’re not the one talking doesn’t mean you’re not engaging. The ability to be able to do this comes from putting in the investment of knowing your team and what they are aligned with.

The grounding stepping stone to this process is of course hearing what each other has to say and acknowledging what drives each other’s motivation that in turn drives the decisions they are making.

Some helpful hints to understanding your team’s needs include:

  1. Making it a priority to reflect with your team
  2. What is working well?
  3. What is not working well?
  4. Where is there opportunity to take the feedback and learn from it?
  5. How can the team pivot in a new direction, together?

Being able to effectively listen without the need to tell someone how you want it to be done is the key to building strong trusting workplace relationships. Collaborative conversations based on sharing ideas and building on perspective is what keeps production moving forward with clarity and focus.

For added reading on effective listening skills check out:

Is your team aligned? Find out what they think.

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