Here’s a surefire way to alienate an employee. She shares her views about a new product on Monday. By Tuesday, you’ve forgotten what she said, so you ask, “What do you think about that new product?”
When people realize that you failed to remember what they told you, they conclude that you weren’t paying attention. You get a reputation as a poor listener. Eventually, they stop sharing their ideas or concerns with you.
What’s frustrating to many managers is that they really try to listen. They don’t intend to forget what they hear. It’s just that with so many pressures piling up, retaining information poses a challenge.
To improve your retention, take good notes. The benefit is twofold: You signal to speakers that you take what they say seriously and you have a written account to refer to later.
If you run into someone in the hallway or lunchroom, listen well and remember key points until you can grab a pen and notepad. The sooner you write what you heard, the more you’ll retain.
“I advised a client who kept a file with little tidbits on each of his employees,” says Bob Wall, an executive coach in Ridgefield, Conn. “In some cases, he preferred not to take notes in real time. So he’d listen and then jot down what he heard later.”
When Wall’s client prepared to meet with one of his workers, he’d review his file on that person in advance. This enabled him to ask about someone’s new dog or favorite hobby.
“He felt that making a human connection was important,” Wall says. “And notes helped him remember what he needed to know to make that connection.”