A supervisor in the kitchen was having a really busy, frustrating day. Two workers had called in sick so the shift was shorthanded. The hospital was full of patients unexpectedly. Paperwork was piling up. The phone just wouldn’t quit ringing.
And now one of the employees was trying to tell the supervisor about some problem involving a pressure cooker.
The supervisor’s first impulse was to snap at the worker for bothering him when he was so busy. Fortunately, he held his temper and gave his full attention. He learned there was, in fact, a serious problem that could have caused an explosion and injuries. He put that problem at the top of his list of priorities and sorted it out before something worse happened.
The ability to listen to what others are saying is one of the most important skills of a manager, supervisor, team leader or worker.
Here are some tips for effective listening:
Pay attention to the person who is speaking. Try not to think about anything else.
Stop what you are doing and give the speaker your full attention.
Eliminate distractions. Don’t let a ringing telephone or other non-urgent interruption prevent you from hearing something important.
Maintain eye contact.
Demonstrate that you are listening. Use body language to indicate your attention. Lean forward to hear the person speak. Let your facial expression indicate interest.
Don’t interrupt the speaker.
Do not finish sentences for the speaker.
Do not anticipate what he is going to say – you could be surprised.
Ask questions to make sure you understand.
Repeat what the speaker has said in your own words. This will help you listen and it will help avoid misunderstandings.
If you don’t have time to listen now, set a time later. Either make an appointment for a further conversation or arrange to raise the matter at a regularly scheduled meeting.
Watch the person’s body language. Tone and volume of voice, posture and gestures can give clues to what is really on his mind.
Don’t simply shoot down an idea on the basis that it won’t work. If the idea isn’t workable, suggest a modification that might work.
Never ridicule the person who is talking to you. Every worker deserves your respect and attention.
Direct the conversation to the work-related issue at hand. If the conversation turns social, you can agree to chat later on a break.
If someone is telling you about a safety problem or any work concern, you’d better be paying attention. Listening is an important part of your job.