Many managers greet colleagues on Monday morning by exchanging pleasantries and sharing highlights of their weekends. That’s fine, but do you really listen to what others say? Those seemingly trivial remarks can provide clues to help you understand your co-workers better. For example, note the first topic someone raises when he initiates small talk. Does he rave about a sporting event, tell a story about his family or follow up on a work-related conversation you had with him?
Once you get to know someone, look for patterns in the kind of subjects that get raised. Through rapt listening, you can learn how to appeal to this individual when it really counts. An employee who likes to discuss baseball may respond well if you assign him a test project as a kind of “exhibition game” before the real thing.