"Nobody cares about how much you know, until they know how much you care."
In the spirit of Valentine's Day, it's customary for us to shower the ones we love with affection, attention and, of course, gifts. But hearts, flowers and candies aside, there is one very special gift we can give to absolutely anyone who matters to us.
...It's not romantic in nature, so it won't be misconstrued in the workplace.
...It doesn't cost anything either, so it won't affect your budget.
...It might take just a bit more time (but not always).
This gift can also be a valuable and effective employee engagement builder for managers and leaders.
Curious yet? Okay, no more riddles - on to the reveal.
Listening. Really listening is the best way to show employees you care.
So if you want to become a better leader (and attentive person in general), here's how to really listen to others:
Give someone your full and undivided attention in a conversation - from beginning to end
Remove all distractions or remove yourself from whatever might be distracting or in the way. Step away from your computer screen or out from behind your desk. Put your phone or tablet out of sight. Take a walk. Go have a cup of coffee. You get the idea.
Create an experience for the other person that they have been truly heard
It helps to give back what you heard for both you and the person to whom you are listening. It's far too easy to get so focused on looking like you're listening, that your attention can drift onto you - how you're standing, making sure you gesture appropriately, etc. Listening for the message so you can give it back, keeps your focus where it belongs - on the person who needs your ear!
Listen for what matters to the person, not just to the words being said
If it's not obvious, ask questions that will help you discover what is important to the other person.
Try listening for the other person's commitment and then use that as the basis for starting a meaningful conversation. This is especially effective if you have a hard time listening to someone because they tend to be a complainer, or if you have a tendency to jump right into fixing the problem. When you share back the commitments - ("What I'm hearing is that "X" is important to you") - you not only let people know you were listening to them, but you also show that you took the time to learn something about them.
Effective leaders and managers find ways to show they care. Use the Valentine's Day holiday as an opportunity to practice giving the gift of listening to those around you - at work and at home. It will matter to them to know they matter to you.
Your turn: What tips would you add for becoming a more effective listener?