2. Prove your understanding by using nonverbal signals
Let the person know that you’re paying attention through your nonverbal cues.
Doing so sets a comfortable level for the conversation and encourages the other
person to keep talking. It also demonstrates that you’re interested in the topic and
Some positive nonverbal signals:
- Moving from behind the desk
- Maintaining eye contact
- Leaning forward slightly
- Raising your eyebrows when the speaker makes a significant point
- Nodding to indicate agreement
3. Use open-ended probes
These are questions that allow the other person to respond at length, rather than with just a “yes” or “no.” Open-ended questions begin with words like “why,” “how,” “explain” and “describe.”
By asking these types of questions, you’ll encourage the other person to share his or her opinions and feelings and elicit additional information.
Be aware of how many open-ended questions you ask. Then consciously try to increase the number.
You’ll find that the quality of your communication improves dramatically.
4. Paraphrase what you hear
To say “I understand” isn’t enough. People typically need some sort of evidence of your understanding.
In addition to nonverbal cues and questions, prove your understanding by briefly restating the information you’ve just heard or by asking a question that proves you know the main idea.
You don’t do this to prove that you were listening to the person, but to prove that you understand them. There’s a big difference.
5 bad habits to guard against
To be an effective listener, you must pay keen attention to the speaker. Seems like common sense, but too often we don’t walk the talk. As managers, it’s important to model this behavior for employees and teach by example.
To check your own effectiveness, take the following listening quiz to make sure you’re not guilty of these bad habits:
- Are you constantly trying to jump in, finishing people’s sentences when they pause too long?
- Do you step on people’s sentences by talking before they’ve finished speaking?
- Do you fail to make eye contact with people who talk to you, or give them verbal cues that you’re listening (e.g., head nod)?
- Do you often say “Yeah” or “Uh-huh” while others speak? 5. Do you often make the same point someone else just made, or ask a question that’s just been answered?
OFFICE COMMUNICATION TOOLKIT TIP #4
Managing employee retention: Listen for subtle whispers of employee turnover
Most good employees don’t stand up one day and quit out of the blue. They send off subtle hints that, if you’re listening, you can act on before the good employee walks out the door. That’s why it’s important to listen to statements like these that can act as an “advance warning system” for employee turnover:
- “This job isn’t what I thought it would be.” Rather than exploring what the employee was originally told or trying to defend miscommunication, focus on the present. Ask, “How do you want your job to be?”
- “I’m at a plateau. I can’t grow here.” Consider that a plea for job stimulation. Provide the employee with new responsibilities, cross-training opportunities or exposure to influential mentors.
- “I don’t get any feedback.” Most employees crave regular input from their supervisors. Don’t leave them in the dark. Plan regular sessions to discuss ongoing projects and performance.
- “This place has too much politics.” While you may not be able to eliminate all dissension and politics in the organization, you can level with the employee. If someone makes this complaint, address rumors head-on, and don’t play favorites.
Plug holes in morale with three questions
To discover potentially serious threats to morale, periodically ask employees the following three questions. Then, use their answers to assess whether they’re disgruntled or dedicated.
1. “If you knew what you know now, would you have taken this job? Why or why not?”
2. “In an ideal world, how would your job change over the next year?”
3. “What is your favorite part of the job?"
OFFICE COMMUNICATION TOOLKIT TIP #7
Confronting poor performers: 6 tips for managers
No manager enjoys having “the talk” with employees. But ignoring an employee’s poor performance won’t make the problem go away; it will only make things worse.
If you’re apt to take the head-in-the-sand approach to employees’ job failings, you’re not alone: Only 31% of U.S. workers agree with the statement “My manager confronts poor performance,” according to a KEYGroup survey.
And companies that tolerate poor performance will drive away top performers who are unhappy working in such an environment.
The solution: Approach workers about their performance problems in a fair, problem-solving manner. When you confront such people in a tactful way, you’ll find that one of two things happens: They improve or they move.
1. Be specific
If an employee has been consistently late, specify the number of times or amount of time. Avoid exaggerations, such as “You are totally unreliable.” Instead, say, “This is the third time in one week that you have been at least 10 minutes late.”
If this issue has been a problem in the past, remind the employee when you have pointed out the offense previously. Say, “I indicated to you last Tuesday that coming in late is not acceptable.”
2. Focus on business reasons
Always refocus the employee on the stated business reason for your comments. Example: “It’s important for you to be here at the designated time since customers rely on our immediate responsiveness when they have questions about their order.”
If you need to correct something like inappropriate casual dress, reiterate the company guidelines. Don’t comment on the employee’s personal taste.
Straying into areas that have nothing to do with workplace performance will result in a loss of credibility with that person. Stay focused on the employee’s job performance and how it affects the company.
3. Give timely feedback
A common management mistake is to bombard employees with feedback at their appraisal, but remain mostly quiet during the rest of the year. The appraisal should be a review of the discussions held during the year. Nothing mentioned at that time should come as a surprise to the employee.
That’s why it’s vital to provide all employees with both positive and negative feedback on a consistent basis.
Poor performers require more feedback, not less. Make them aware of what they did wrong immediately.
One caveat: Don’t try to give corrective feedback when the person is upset or emotional. Wait until the employee has calmed down.
4. Consider employee’s personality
Everyone handles feedback differently. Some people want it straight while others are more sensitive. With an employee who wants straightforward feedback, you can get away with saying, “You gave the customer the wrong information because you didn’t have the updated manual. How do you think we should handle it?”
To get through to a more sensitive employee, take a different approach. For instance, “I understand why you provided the customer with this information. Are you aware that the guidelines have changed? What do you suggest we do in this situation?”
Regardless of the person’s personality, be clear and straightforward in your communication.
5. Check for understanding
Avoid asking close-ended questions during the discussion or when summarizing. At the end of a confrontation, don’t ask, “Do you understand?” The employee could simply say “Yes.”
Instead, ask the employee to summarize his or her understanding of the situation. Have the person lay out actions, steps or accountabilities that were discussed.
6. Keep a paper trail of discussions
Good documentation, such as a performance log for each employee, allows you to easily identify and prove recurring problems. (This could also help if the employee decides to sue.)
After each meeting with the poor performer, take notes that summarize the discussions. Include the problem, the action taken to correct or eliminate it, the dates, the result that occurred, and any comments that will help you recall feedback sessions when you complete the performance appraisal.
Don’t let the performance log become a little black book of mistakes and errors. Also include examples of acceptable and/or outstanding performance