Many learning practitioners unexpectedly assume leadership roles within their teams. How do you make sure you're up to the task? Guest blogger Jenny Holt recommends you focus on listening.
From the monotone drone of the boardroom presentation that just won’t end, to the co-worker steamrolling your water-cooler story with a personal anecdote, it isn’t difficult to spot a stunted communicator. However, skillful communication is not dictated by one’s propensity to speak and be heard, but rather the ability to mindfully respond to what others say by employing active listening skills. In the case of a virtual training environment in a non-physical classroom, the value of this proficiency is heightened by the presence of mobile learners.
What is Active Listening?
Active listening is a soft skill highly valued by managers and employers alike in the modern workplace (which is brimming with both digital and physical distraction). This honed and directed insight involves becoming an active participant in conversation rather than only passively hearing what the other party is trying to communicate. Sound expert Julian Treasure addressed the chasm between listening and hearing with the observation that while we spend 60% of our communication time listening, we only retain 25% of what we hear.
In becoming better listeners through the employment of this skill, managers can avoid outside distractions and make a concerted effort to not lose focus, and not to view the time allocated for listening as simply an opportunity to develop a counter argument. While speaking, the feeling that your message is falling on deaf ears is extremely alienating and can lead to growing resentments and hostility, which undoubtedly serves as a detriment and unnecessary challenge to teams/groups in the workplace.
How Does it Help?
With techniques such as: acknowledgement, mentally reciting what the other person is saying so as to increase comprehension, maintaining eye contact, providing feedback, and avoiding rash emotional responses, active listening allows for increased patience, productivity, and conflict resolution within the team/workplace. The heavy-handed value placed on multitasking in the modern workplace is counter-intuitively a detriment to productivity, as seen by managers who encourage this practice and are met with employees who need extra time/resources to revise and complete tasks. In demonstrating to the other party that you are fully engaged, they respond positively, secure in the knowledge that both their time and opinion are a valued commodity. The repetition of this practice increases workplace satisfaction/employee retention, and opens lines of communication between management and employees alike.
Fully attentive listening is a rarity in the workplace, with many meetings (and even face-to-face conversations) spent checking emails, texts, or other correspondence. By honing listening skills and becoming highly effective communicators free from distraction, co-workers can secure their validation in each and every conversation, leading to a more positive and productive modern workplace.