What Great Managers (Listeners) Really Do

In a recent article by Harvard Business Review, 3,492 participants in a development program designed to help managers become better coaches were analyzed for what makes a great listener. To no surprise, what we normally think is good listening and what great listening actually is are two different things.

What Most Think Good Listening Is

  1. Not talking when others are speaking.
  2. Letting others know you’re listening through facial expressions and verbal sounds (“Mmm-hmm”).
  3. Being able to repeat what others have said, practically word-for-word.

According to the article, "Chances are you think you’re a good listener. People’s appraisal of their listening ability is much like their assessment of their driving skills, in that the great bulk of adults think they’re above average." Again, this is not surprising if you look at the above criteria, but the article continues that, "recent research that we conducted suggests that these behaviors fall far short of describing good listening skills."

What Great Listening Really Is

The researchers found some surprising conclusions to what great listening really is. These insights align very nicely to how we have developed CONVERSATIONS That and validate our methodology. Here are the four main categories from the article along with how we help develop each.

"Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks."

Simply repeating word-for-word what someone is saying is a very shallow form of listening. We teach a technique called "reflective listening," which goes beyond what is known as active listening. Reflective listening is not repetition; it advances the conversation and really demonstrates you are truly processing what is being said.

"Good listening included interactions that build a person’s self-esteem."

This is the reason we teach individuals to use affirmations as part of the conversation. Affirmation conveys understanding and care which can make all the difference. A critical understanding is that people know when you are just "pumping their egos," so you really do need to actually care to build self-esteem.

"Good listening was seen as a cooperative conversation."

The goal of all our conversations is "Collaborative Change." This is when two individuals cooperate towards a mutually beneficial result. Most conversations are the opposite of Collaborative Change.

"Good listeners tended to make suggestions."

The opposite of Collaborative Change is the "Corrective Complex." This is when the listener is directive versus suggestive. We avoid this by using a summary technique that involves asking, "Are we AOK?" With A-O-K standing for ask, offer and knock.

We appreciate the research that was done in this article. It is yet another credible source that continues to validate the work we do. If you want to be a great listener, learn how to have CONVERSATIONS That....