Often, you may find yourself wondering why your team is failing to match your expectations even after you’ve communicated exactly what you expect from them? The answer to this question is such a simple one that managers and team leaders often overlook it: it’s probably because you didn’t listen to what they had to say. Effective communication is a two-way process, with you telling your team what you expect and then listening to whether the team thinks that the targets you have in mind are achievable (and, most importantly, why). Based on what your team says to you, you can craft a better workflow plan, tighten operations, and ensure that you see a boost in productivity. All it takes is Reflective Listening.
What is reflective listening?
Reflective listening is a crucial skill for managers and founders to develop as it allows them to improve their understanding of people’s concerns, ideas, issues and even approaches to various problems. This approach may feel like an unnatural fit to authoritarian leaders as it requires you to focus on the personal aspects of what one is saying, rather than just the impersonal facts (such as the targets and numbers). However, the minute you shift the focus from telling people what to do to listening to what they have to say, you’ll see a marked change in employee engagement, productivity, and overall morale.
How can you practice reflective listening?
On paper, this is quite simple. All you need to do is allow people to speak. However, in practice, it’s not as simple as it may seem. Reflective listening requires you to develop a frame of reference that helps you understand where the other person is coming from, rather than just responding from your own frame of reference. This is hard. When you know you’ve got a set number to show the big bosses, it’s natural to respond to the pressure by ruling your team with an iron fist. However, by listening to whether your team believes that certain expectations are realistic, you can avoid an impending catastrophe by reconfiguring those numbers ahead of time, and chasing a more realistic goal. As you can see, it’s not just about the new-age, feel-good approach – Reflective listening benefits you, the manager, the most.
How does this benefit your team?
Employees who feel as though their concerns are recognised are more likely to work hard to meet goals than those who feel invisible or silenced in the workplace. Setting goals after consulting with your team taps into what Behavioural Economics called the Idiosyncratic Fit – people are more likely to perform better when they believe that they’ve got an edge. Allowing your team to have a say in goal setting lets them believe they have that edge (because, after all, they chose the goals), leading to better performance. As a bonus, you’ll also develop a reputation for being someone who’s good to work with!