One of the most important things a supervisor can do to show employees respect is to actively listen to them in conversation. In this episode, we take on the topic of active listening and highlight 5 ways mid and frontline managers can demonstrate this important skill.
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As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.
Where you can find Joe
Supervisor Skills: Secrets of Success is a production of AEU LEAD, a division of The American Equity Underwriters, Inc. With 60 years of combined industry experience, our supervisor training program gives mid-level managers in the maritime industry the skills needed to influence employees, customers, and peers. This increases employee engagement, reduces turnover and rework, and ultimately results in higher profits for their companies.
Active listening. What is it, why is it important, and how do you do it? That's our topic today. Stick around.
Hello and thank you for joining us. My name is Joe White, and I'm the host of Supervisor Skills: Secrets of Success. The SOS Podcast series is produced to create ongoing development opportunities for mid and frontline managers. With each episode, we take on topics of interest and share insights and perspectives for the benefit of our listeners.
In today's SOS short episode, we're talking about active listening. A term many have heard, it's a skill most supervisors struggle with and one of utmost importance to employee relations.
Hopefully, you'll find some value from our discussion today and be able to benefit from it in one way or another.
At one point or another, we've all been there. We've experienced the effects of someone passively engaged in conversation with us. Whether distracted by emails, phones, or something else, when we don't have someone's full attention, we just don't feel important. As is so often the case, being heard is rarely enough. Being listened to for the purpose of clear understanding, however, is something entirely different. As a supervisor, it's important that you understand the fine line separating the two. Active listening goes beyond hearing words in the context of the conversation. It involves giving one's undivided attention to someone else for the purpose of clearly understanding what they have to say. In practice, it means being fully present and in the moment when someone is talking to you. Those that do it well make a conscious and deliberate effort to eliminate, or at least minimize competing distractions.
As for the benefits of active listening, there are many. For supervisors, it certainly helps build rapport with employees and ultimately helps you earn their respect. As for employees, feeling important and listened to improves the levels of engagement. Highly engaged employees have fewer injuries, are more motivated, and are far more likely to stick around than those that aren't. If it's something you're not currently doing, it's well worth considering as a leadership practice you can start right away. To help you do so, here are several recommendations for consideration:
1. Give the person you're speaking with your undivided attention.
Body language is very important. Look directly at the employee, make eye contact with them, and avoid fidgeting with items in your proximity. Show the employee that what they have to say is more important to you than anything else at the moment.
2. Let them speak without interruption.
For many, this is one of the biggest challenges associated with active listening. Jumping into conclusions, interrupting the speaker, or reading into what they may be saying can hijack the conversation. It also sends the wrong message. Exercise patience and restraint. Let the conversation follow a natural course and allow your employees to establish the pace and direction it takes.
3. Listen to understand.
All too often, we process conversations for the purpose of providing a response or counterargument. While there's a time and place for that, active listening is about understanding. Where appropriate, ask questions to clarify points of discussion. Also, ask for details needed for context and meaning. Avoid criticism or remarks that could shut down the dialogue.
4. Clarify any conveyed expectations.
When employees engage with supervisors, it's often for the purpose of sharing a need of some sort. When that happens, it's important to acknowledge receiving it and to clarify expectations involving it. Agree on the path forward and the timing by which it will take place.
5. Summarize the conversation.
When the conversation is wrapped up, it's important to play back what you heard, how it was interpreted, and what you plan to do in response provided follow-up is necessary. It's also important for those wanting to improve active listening skills to ask for feedback. Doing so provides an opportunity for input and helps gain the perspective of others.
Active listening is about showing respect. It's about giving someone else your undivided attention while they're speaking. It's about resisting the temptation to interrupt, correct, or take over conversations. It's about discipline and demonstrating effective leadership skills on the shop floor at a point where it matters most. For supervisors that practice active listening, it's about earning the respect of your employees as well.
Thank you for joining us. I hope this information will help you grow and improve as a supervisor. We look forward to sharing additional podcasts with you in the months ahead and welcome any suggestions you may have for topics you'd like to see us cover. We're always looking for guests and enjoy sharing insights and success stories from the field. If that's something you'd like to be a part of, just let us know.
The SOS Podcast series is brought to you by AEU LEAD, a consultancy dedicated to the needs of mid and frontline managers. We value and appreciate any feedback and would encourage you to review and rate your experience with the show wherever you access your podcast.
For additional information about AEU LEAD or to follow us on social media, please use the links in the show notes accompanying this episode. That's it for now. Stay safe and thanks for listening.