When an employee wants to speak with you, give your undivided attention. Strike a “listening posture” by aligning yourself with the speaker—either sitting or standing. Let go of distractions. And keep still so the speaker feels comfortable opening up.
- Don’t feel obliged to pounce on everything you hear. Instead, nod politely or ask questions. Some speakers need prodding to reveal what’s really on their minds.
“People aren’t afraid to tell me they don’t know how to do something or don’t know enough to make something happen,” said Lisa Simpson, president of Sony’s Online Entertainment unit, in The Wall Street Journal.
- Observe a speaker closely. Note any nonverbal cues. Example: If an employee laughs slightly whenever he mentions a deadline, dig. The laughter may indicate he thinks the deadline’s unrealistic.
- As you listen, you may think of dozens of things you want to say. Within minutes, you can get so preoccupied trying to remember all the points you want to make that you tune out. Pace yourself. When an important thought enters your head, jot down a one-word reminder.