4 Tips To Improve Your Listening Skills

cps_improve_listening_skills

Effective communication skills are one of the most important skills to develop and one of the hardest to achieve. Most people think they communicate well, but very few people actually understand how to do it effectively.

It’s easy to think we’re listening to someone when they talk, but do we really understand what they’re saying? Almost without exception, what we are really doing is listening to hear the pause in their conversation so we can interrupt them and give our perspective. It’s more important to us to show others that we have the knowledge, share a similar story or defend our position, than it is to truly take the time to hear what they’re actually saying. We make the conversation about us instead of about the other person and the point they’re trying to make.

Here are four ways to improve your listening skills and thus, improve the relationships you have at work.

1. SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND

It most conversations, we are more interested in getting our point across or explaining our side of the story than we are in truly listening to the other person’s perspective.  If we want to become better listeners, we must first seek to understand what the other person is trying to say. Are they expressing a concern or stressed out about something? Do they not understand their role on the project? Solutions can only be found after we have a clear understanding of the situation. We have to take the time to listen to what is being said instead of reacting to it.

2. BE PRESENT IN THE MOMENT

This is probably the hardest listening skill to develop. In our chaotic world where we are constantly attached to our electronics, it is hard to simply be present in the conversation. Provide your complete attention and focus on your audience with eye contact to indicate your sincere and complete interest. Suppress the urge to check your smartphone or computer while someone is trying to have a conversation with you.

3. PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING

Think of active listening as a muscle you need to constantly exercise in order to make stronger. Ask a different peer or employee a question about the details or progress of a project, the company culture or just what’s new in their life. By constantly exercising your listening skills, not only will it help you to discover potential problems and solutions, but it will build trust and positive relationships in your work environment.

4. CLARIFY AND VALIDATE

Clarify and validate what you hear the other person saying. Be patient and remain quiet while the person makes their point and asks for your opinion or solution. Then take a deep breath and say, “What I hear you saying is…”. Or if you are still unclear of their perspective, ask for more clarification on the subject until you can repeat what they said. By clarifying and validating what they said, you’re showing that person how much you value them by clearly understanding their point. This builds mutual trust and is a key building block to developing better relationships.

Listening is a skill that can be learned by anyone. It simply takes the desire, knowledge and practices to do it well. Use these tips to develop your listening skills and watch how it creates better personal and professional relationships.

Leadership skills development

4 Mistakes To Avoid When Managing Conflict At Work

cps conflict management 001

Conflict in the workplace exists everywhere, regardless of the size of the company or type of business. As long as you have a minimum of two people working in the same office or on the same project, you have the potential for conflict.

There are different types of conflict. You can have a conflict with a boss, peer or subordinate regarding personality clashes, performance issues, jealousy, or general mistrust. There are also team conflicts that arise when a team is performing poorly due to low levels of communication, trust, direction or accountability. And there are also conflicts between departments within a company that arise from protecting one’s “turf”. Each type of conflict has its own unique set of problems, but there are some general mistakes people make when trying to manage these conflicts regardless of the situation.

DON’T TAKE SIDES

An employee comes into your office to complain about the conflict they have with someone else. Your job as the leader is to remain neutral, hear all sides of the situation, and facilitate the people involved to help them solve their problem. If you take sides, even if the situation clearly shows someone is wrong and the other person is right, you risk permanently damaging the relationship with the “wronged” person. They will most likely choose to remember how you didn’t pick their side and they will develop a stronger level of mistrust towards you. It will be harder to solicit this person for positive work involvement and they risk becoming a larger problem in the future.

DON’T SOLVE THE PROBLEM

Unless the situation is a clear case of harassment, theft, abuse, etc., don’t rush to solve the problem for the people having the conflict. It’s too easy for some employees to expect their boss to solve every problem that arises and it’s a habit you do not want to encourage. Every person involved in the work conflict is an adult and with the right direction and skills, they can become empowered to learn how to resolve the conflict in a satisfactory manner for all involved. Your role as the leader is to facilitate the resolution of the conflict by stressing the importance of finding a “win-win” solution for all parties and attaining agreement and cooperation on a plan of action.

DON’T IGNORE THE CONFLICT

It is tempting to want to ignore a conflict and hope that it will resolve itself. However as the leader, it’s your responsibility to set the example of what behaviors, actions, and emotions you expect in the workplace. If you ignore conflict, you’re setting the tone for the office and creating an environment that quickly becomes hostile, negative and “every person for him/herself”. The longer the conflict remains, the more it will fester and affect the work environment. By addressing it quickly when it arises, you can eliminate a potentially larger problem in the future.

DON’T LOSE YOUR TEMPER

Negativity begets more negativity. As frustrating and emotionally draining conflict management can be, set the tone for resolving the conflict by remaining positive and professional at all times. When you resist the urge to yell, name call or blame the people involved, you signal to them that those behaviors are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. They feel their problem is genuine and it should be treated as a real concern with respect, consideration, and kindness.

Leaders can help maintain a more positive work environment by avoiding these mistakes. If the conflict remains unresolved or the steps to resolve the problem have failed, bring in a leadership or team advisor to help all parties involved develop better communication, trust, and appreciation for each other’s differences. A neutral third party will be able to facilitate the resolution to everyone’s satisfaction.

Guidelines for choosing an executive coach

Mid-Year Performance Review Template

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Conducting a mid-year performance review allows leaders the opportunity to evaluate an employee’s progress on predetermined goals, provide feedback on his/her adherence to standards and job responsibilities, and discover potential roadblocks to success. It’s the perfect time of the year to sit down with your employees and review their progress , gauge their commitment, and provide any necessary help so there aren’t any surprises at the end of the year performance review for anyone involved.

A mid-year performance review doesn’t have to be as long and thorough as a yearly review but it does have 3 key steps. Follow this performance review template and the action steps provided to have a successful mid-year performance review of your employees.

1.     Prepare for the Meeting

Thorough preparation is key to setting the right tone, covering the issues at hand, and developing a plan of action for the rest of the year. Many times as supervisors, we think we know our employees and can just “wing it” when it comes to the review. However, the employees will benefit greatly from your preparation and their own. Be sure the manager and the employee each complete the following when planning for the review.

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2.     Conduct the Performance Review Meeting

To set a positive tone for the meeting, it’s important to hold it in a neutral, comfortable, and non-threatening location. Begin the session by reviewing the goals and topics of discussion. Then continue the performance review by covering the following:

  • Provide feedback on performance, talk about accomplishments, job responsibilities and expectations
  • Determine any progress towards goals and how well performance is meeting or exceeding expectations
  • Solicit and address any concerns the employee has
  • Express commitment to employee’s continued development and career success
  • Close meeting with summary of what was discussed and agreed on, and confirm follow-up actions

3.     Complete Follow-Up Actions

Schedule a date with the employee for a follow-up meeting to discuss progress towards the goals and agreements made in the mid-year performance review. It is up the employee and the supervisor to follow through on the agreements and commitments made during the review.

By conducting mid-year performance reviews now, you will be saving yourself any headaches and surprises down the road by continuing to gauge the progress towards performance expectations and achievement of an employee’s job responsibilities and goals. It will benefit the employee by knowing their supervisor is invested in his/her success and profits your company by understanding which employees are engaged and dedicated to progress, and which ones aren’t.

 

12 month leadership development plan & toolkit

The Future of Leadership Development

It’s proven that the formula for developing leaders is 70% – 20% – 10%.  70% of learning is through on-the-job experiences, 20% is through other people by exposure to coaching, feedback, and mentoring, and 10% is from classroom education.

Unfortunately, most C-level executives feel that by sending managers to classroom training they will become leaders after five days of intensive case study discussions. CCL research suggests the following continuum for effective leadership development:

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It is a blended approach to leadership development with very little classroom training as the catalyst to learn leadership. A great way to help high potentials develop their leadership skills is to do some combination of the following:

1. Provide for temporary assignments (3-6 months) where they have a challenge they may not have faced. For example, a client had an open territory and assigned a high potential to lead the territory and find his replacement.  This gave him the opportunity to see if he could stage a turnaround in employee engagement and sales, while he kept his current job.

2. Assign high potentials to special taskforces or have them lead the taskforce. Typically, there are enterprise-wide business and organizational issues that are under review and change.  Exposing a strong functional leader to these taskforces broadens their perspective and gives senior leaders the chance to see how they operate at a more strategic level and requiring broader influencing skills. For example, a client was developing a new field organization structure and had high potentials from all functions on this temporary taskforce to conduct the analyses, make recommendations, and help with implementation.

3. Rotate leaders so they can get exposure to parts of the business, cultures, and functions that cause them to have to develop and display a level of leadership they have not in the past.

4. Set up the mechanism to place high potentials on Boards for non-profits and industry associations to develop their leadership and broaden their exposure to how businesses operate.  A client has the Director of Community Relations place senior leaders on key non-profit Boards in their respective communities giving them valuable insights to running a business while helping the organization with key skills they would not be able to hire.

5. Assign senior mentors to high potentials so they can get guidance and sponsorship across the enterprise to continue developing their leadership skills.  It is important to create a mentoring program in terms of preparing mentees and mentors for their respective roles, time requirement, and mentoring skills.

6. Rotate high potentials into the Learning and Development Function where they are able to teach and facilitate leadership, sales, and quality programs in the enterprise.  This provides exposure into Corporate and across functions to broaden their perspective and networks for future senior leader roles.

As you start 2014 and begin to prepare your next generation of leaders it’s time to be purposeful in assigning work and roles so that you can use every opportunity to develop their leadership skills on the job.

12 month leadership development plan & toolkit