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The Finer Points of Listening

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One of the keys to retaining your best employees is paying attention to their needs. Listening is one of the must have tools a good leader uses frequently. It leads to respect, trust, and a sense of camaraderie between communicating parties. Different aspects of listening include hearing what your workers are really saying, allowing for brainstorming, and even keeping an ear to the office grapevine. Here are some finer points of listening that managers can put into practice to open doorways to a better work environment and increased efficiency and productivity.

Heard Mentality
An employee's brainpower is one of the most valuable assets any boss has, and listening is one of the best ways to unlock it. If you treat people with suggestions as troublemakers who are rocking the boat they're going to be convinced that you don't care what they think. Good leaders know their subordinates' input is valuable and it all begins with having a listening mentality. Encourage workers to share ideas for improvements, innovations, and insights. Creative solutions have a better chance of surfacing when the left (critical/analytical) brain is relaxed. Even if you feel like an employee is expressing a bad idea, respect them and hear them out. Often, with genuine collaboration, a bad idea can blossom into something worthwhile.

Factor in Body Language
The axiom "actions speak louder than words" is one to bear in mind when you are focused on listening. Instead of pitting actions and words against each other, recognize that tone and body language often reinforce or shed light on deeper motivations. For example, if an employee is relaxed and "unclenched" they are probably in a more receptive state and capable of communicating clearer. Someone with folded arms may be in a more defensive, closed state of mind. Tone and body language are a two way street because maintaining steady eye contact and consistently responding shows a worker that you are listening intently.

The Issue of Trust
Listening is the cornerstone in building a rapport with team members, but what happens afterwards between speaker and listener is also critical. Maintaining discretion and when necessary, keeping confidences, creates trust and respect between parties. A supervisor who builds a relationship inevitably learns things about an employee's outside interests and personal life. Playing fast and loose with personal facts about others is inappropriate and can fracture bonds of trust you've generated.

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