The Most Common Mistakes Managers Make #4


The most common mistakes managers make #4 — Not listening

Failing to listen is one of the most common mistakes made by managers. Feeling that they are not heard can make workers ‘shut down’ or hold back ideas that could improve the workplace. Managers who don’t listen well risk losing connection with their people and may in time lose their people altogether. As the L.E.A.D. Survey shows us, over 40% of Australian employees are actively looking to leave their current employer and a third of them have already applied for another job. So, listening is a vital communication skill and one which must be practiced regularly.


So what are some of the reasons why managers make this mistake?


Failure to listen often stems from the belief that it ‘takes too much time or effort’ or that it’s ‘not worth listening’. In essence, the manager mistakenly believes that their efforts would be wasted if they took the time to listen to what their team has to say. Sometimes, managers fail to understand what effective listening really is and don’t give sufficient focus to its importance.

Take “Harry the Hard of Hearing”. He’s not really hearing impaired, nor is he incapable of listening. He’s basically made listening a low priority. This may be happening because of the time pressure he feels he’s under or because he gets frustrated when the team doesn’t do what he has asked of them. It may also stem from the way in which he communicates and the way he comes across to his team.

Whatever the reason, when managers stop listening, teams begin to collapse and the problem is amplified as they begin to disengage from the manager and the organisation. The manager’s feelings about the limited value of listening are then affirmed by the fact that the team no longer wants to communicate…and so the cycle continues.


So, what are some of the strategies to improve listening?


Effective listening is a fundamental management skill which must be developed and practiced daily. Amongst the options available to “Harry the Hard of Hearing” are greater devotion of time to the business of active listening…listening fully through observing both the non-verbal communication and verbal communication of the other person.

Listening without judging or seeking to resolve the issue on the spot is also an option. Active listening places the focus entirely on the communicator and makes the listener engage with the message rather than filtering it based on their own perspective.

Effective listening enables managers to work with their teams to develop and achieve shared goals. By listening and connecting, each party has an opportunity to provide their input to an issue and to work collaboratively to resolve it.

When effective listening is practiced, the organisation hums and the people generally feel more content and valued in their role. They feel more satisfied with the contribution they are making.

There’s an old saying “People go where they are wanted, but they only stay where they are appreciated”. As an integral part of effective communication, listening shows people that they are appreciated. Listening is the glue that holds the organisation and its various parts together. Without it, there is a risk that things may start ‘coming unstuck’.

Another benefit of a listening environment is that it produces better quality decision-making and better outcomes. Workers become more certain about what is expected of them and managers enjoy the confidence and support of their teams.

Once they have learnt how to listen effectively, managers are often surprised just how valuable the input of their team members can be.

It requires disciplined effort and focus to listen effectively. In any conversation, the listening part tends to be far more important than the talking part. Remember, we have two ears and only one mouth. Leaders’ and Managers’ communication efforts should reflect this ratio to ensure great communication outcomes and higher levels of employee engagement, performance and retention.


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