Recent research suggests one of the most important aspects to running a successful enterprise is to actively listen to employees and their ideas. Good managers listen carefully to their employees since they know intuitively it fosters development, adjustment and integration. It is incumbent upon managers to develop employee potential, delegate responsibility, achieve cooperation, increase productivity, and above all, combine natural- and human resources to produce goods and services.
To achieve this objective a manager must have among other abilities the knack to listen intelligently and carefully to his/her subordinates. There are many kinds of listening skills. The lawyer in a courtroom listens for contradictory errors, weaknesses and irrelevancies; a student listens to learn, an employee listens to understand instructions, and a father to sense dissatisfaction or happiness of his offspring.
When employees and managers communicate, the latter must listen carefully to the message the employee is sending, although the content of the conversation may be the same. The answer of the manager is equally important in tone and content.
Active listening means to approach common, everyday problems in the work place or at home. To be effective, active listening must be firmly grounded in the basic attitudes of the user. It is meant to bring changes in people, since clinical and research evidence clearly shows that sensitive listening is a most effective agent for individual personality change and group development.
Listening brings about in people attitudes towards themselves and changes of their basic values and philosophy.
Researchers have been able to establish that active listening also triggers changes within the listener. It is a personal growth experience.
When we encounter a person with a problem our usual response is to try to change his way of looking at things – to get him to see his situation the way we see it or would like him to see it. We plead, reason, scold, encourage, insult, prod – anything to bring about a change in the desired direction, that is, in the direction we want him/her to travel.
What we seldom realize, however, is that under these circumstances we are usually responding to our own needs to see the world in certain ways.
Listen for total meaning. Any message a person tries to get across usually has two components; the content of message and the feeling or attitude underlying it. Both are important; both give the message meaning. It is this total meaning of the message that we try to understand.
Active listening requires that the interlocutor’s message is understood clearly. Active listening is not an easy skill to acquire, and demands practice. Perhaps, and more importantly, it may require changes in our own basic attitudes.
The decision to spend time listening to employees must be made by the manager, and actively supported by all levels of management. Executives seldom have much to do with products and processes, but they decide and outline how line managers should perform.
The higher one goes up the line, the more one would have to be concerned with human relations problems, simply because people produce, and make decisions.
The minute a server is promoted to supervisor, he/she must start relating to employees, instead of nuts and bolts, and to patrons. In effect, the hospitality business represents more difficulties in this respect. People are different to merchandise, material, figures and soft ware, and managers must employ different skills to achieve business objectives.
The development of a manager starts with becoming a special person, and that requires “active listening”.