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Lend an ear to help solve employee issues

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by on
in Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Issue: Don't always rush in to solve employee problems; sometimes, just listening is the best course.

Benefit: Effective listening casts you in the role of coach, encouraging others to put out their own fires.

Action: Listen actively, using the techniques below, the next time someone approaches with a problem.

A staff member walks into your office to complain about a problem employee. While your first instinct may be to "fix" the problem, slow down. Sometimes, the best course isn't to jump into action or offer an instant answer but to simply listen.

If you immediately leap into rescue mode, you've lost a valuable opportunity. By listening actively instead of just reacting, you take on the role of coach instead of problem-solver, and you can more effectively encourage others to put out their own fires.

Active listening isn't difficult, but it does take practice. Try these 6 listening techniques:

1. Tune out distracting thoughts and turn your full attention to the individual.

2. Let the person explain the situation in his or her own words. Take notice of important information but don't assume you have the "right" answer for the problem. Your goal is to help people find that for themselves.

3. Listen to more than the words. Body language, tone and inflection can all provide clues to underlying issues.

4. Summarize the key points about the situation. Allow, and listen for, corrections.

5. Ask questions. Even if the situation seems clear-cut, your open-ended questions can help with possible solutions. Examples: "What would the employee need to do to improve the situation?" "Do you see this as a performance problem, a discipline problem or something else?" "What would you like to do about it?"

6. Summarize solutions. If you've been listening carefully, you've probably heard the person suggest several solutions, perhaps even without realizing he or she has done so. Repeat them, and ask him or her to prioritize what steps he or she will take to solve the problem.

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