This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.
If you could create a shortlist of the most important skills that a manager must cultivate, what would be on it? That is not just an idle question: please do offer yours as a comment, below.
On anybody’s list, I would expect to see ‘listening’. It is a fundamental human skill and one that most of us take for granted. It is even a skill the deaf can deploy, using different senses: listening means paying attention to what other people are saying. So, no wonder it is a vital skill for managers.
So how can you do it? Or, put another way,
‘How can we learn to do listening better?’
Your exercise this week is to practise these seven steps. Start with number 1, and practise this for a day. On day 2, practise number 1 and number 2, and so on, building your skills as the week progresses. Keep a record of what you notice in your notebook.
Day 1: Care
Before you start to listen to someone, you have to care what they are saying. So practise caring enough to really pay attention.
Day 2: Tune in
Carefully notice what the other person is saying. Savour their words and the meaning behind them.
Day 3: Tune out
Tune out that constant dialogue that goes on in your head. When you hear it, put it to one side and re-focus on what the other person is saying.
Day 4: Relevance
Listen for things that are particularly relevant, surprising, interesting. What are the most important words that you hear and how do they relate to the substance of your conversation?
Day 5: Suspend
Suspending judgement is your toughest test so far. Resist the urge to criticise, judge or react to what you hear. There will be a time for that later, but when you let your opinions and prejudices get in the way of your listening, you miss what the other person says, thinks and feels.
Day 6: Notice
Notice what else is going on at the same time as they are speaking. What are their speech patterns, facial expressions, gestures and movements. What posture do they adopt and what is the quality of their movements. All of this, when you really notice it, contains valuable information about the sub-text to their words.
Day 7: Pay Attention…
… to your listening process. Put all of your Day 1 to Day 6 learning together and now keep aware of the quality of your listening. When it starts to dip, notice it and re-assert the quality of your listening.