How Well do you Listen Between the Words?

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How well do you listen to those that report to you? I’m not talking about stopping and giving them uninterrupted time to say what they have to say. I mean, can you key into subtleties in their voice and non-verbal cues to hear what they’re really saying?

During a feedback session, an employee makes the statement that they need more money. They could honestly feel that they’re underpaid for the service they render but could it also be that they need to feel valued? Income is the most readily visible sign of value in the workplace. Your employee just might not be able to completely articulate their feelings.

An otherwise stellar employee goes through a patch of rocky performance. Their reply when coached is they have too much to do. The issue may be resources and you could start thinking about how to offload work or you can think they’re slacking. But what if you, as their manager, haven’t given them clear priorities and direction in their work?

Finally, you have an employee that simply throws up their hands and says “That’s it, I quit.” You can get indignant and take the stance of “Fine, you’re free to leave any time you want.” (Yes, there are companies like that out there.) or you can hear the cry for help in their voice. What can you do to mentor, coach and lead this person back to being a positive contributor?

Words have meaning but facial expressions and those sighs and tears in the corner of the eye mean a whole lot more!

I think we’re at a point in our society where talking about feelings and emotions in the workplace is no longer taboo. Emotional Intelligence training is popular now and that shows that soft skills are just as important in management and leadership as critical thinking and decision making. If you have a difficult time connecting with your employees’ emotions, look inward to see what might be blocking you. You might be harboring feelings about your own work that you’re afraid to face. You might also have the belief that work is no place for emotions. Whatever your roadblock, opening up to your employees will help you be a better leader.

The same is true for your significant other, family and friends. Learn to listen between the words. Open yourself up to what they’re feeling and you’ll have an easier time relating to their current state of mind and you will likely communicate in a more supportive manner.

Photo credit: DailyPic / Foter / CC BY-NC 2.0

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