Strategies for Effective Listening

Strategies for Effective Listening

Effective listening is easy, isn’t it? All we need to do is pay attention, picture what the speaker is saying, maintain eye contact, not interrupt and parrot back what we heard to ensure understanding. Well, this could help us with pretending that we are listening, but would we really be a good listener?

Have you ever thought of what it takes to become a good listener?

How leaders and managers listen with empathy and mindfulness every time they communicate with their team?

The simple answer is they stay fully present and they utilise their social skills fully. Of course, under the hood, there are many more things that contribute to their effective listening skills.

Lots of people try to listen effectively, but very few get success. A lot of young as well as experienced managers are not great listeners. During conversations, they would either lose patience very soon or become defensive or judgemental, and then end up hijacking the conversation.

Effective listening is the need for all managers today. Listening paves way for earning the trust of the team, keeping employees more engaged, fostering the discovery of new ideas, managing difficult people and situations, and enhancing emotional well-being at work.

5 Useful Strategies for Effective Listening 

Very frankly, nobody likes working with leaders and managers who don’t have the knack of listening. Time and again, research has shown that effective listening is required for efficient leadership. Also, people are more interested and willing to cooperate with bosses who are good listeners. On that account, here are 5 useful tips to help you become a good listener so you can routinely listen to others and their different viewpoints calmly, without losing your cool.

There is always a scope of listening to people a little bit better. 

You can, as a result, make the workplace environment less challenging, less stressed, more secure, and more fun. And most likely, your team won’t feel like the management just neither cares nor listens!

1. Be purposeful while listening

There is a huge difference between effective listening and just hearing. Anyone can go into conversation with someone and have a lot of things to say. But only a few have the intention and desire for listening. 

If you really want to become a good listener, start by identifying the end goal you are trying to get from actively listening to the other person or a group of people.

 Unless you find your answer to ‘why you are listening?’, you will not find a way to make listening more effective.

So, set clear intentions beforehand.

2. Empty your mind before having a conversation

 

To be a good listener, get rid of your expectations and adopt the mindset of curiosity before having any conversation.

When we attach expectations and conversations do not go as we expected, listening becomes painful, frustrating, and difficult to follow through.

So, never enter a conversation with a preconceived notion or expectation of how the conversation should be. Subsequently, it will be easy for you to actively listen, understand and appreciate points of view that are very different from your way of thinking.

Here’s what I recommend you do to clear and quiet your mind and lay the foundation for becoming a deliberate listener-

Before you participate in any conversation, take a moment of silence to pay attention to your thoughts and emotions. Just listen to yourself and fine-tune into where you are. Then, choose to let those preconceived thoughts and assumptions go to listen truly to the other person and be a good listener.

3. Resist the urge to interrupt

 

Even if what the other person says contains a lot of wrong perceptions, bitterness, anger, blame, prejudices, misunderstandings or accusation, do not interrupt before the person indicates that he or she is done for the moment. Continue listening deeply. See the whole person. And first, understand the issues that concern him or her.

Remember that you will have a chance later to offer some information so that the person can correct his or her perception, but not now. Now is the time only to listen.

If you try to interrupt or correct the other person while they are still speaking, you will transform the session into a debate and it will ruin everything.

So, refrain from putting your pennyworth in even if the person says things that are not right.

Only after you have deeply listened and allowed the other person to express everything in his or her heart, give a little of the information you must give to enhance their perception.

4. Clarify

 

Good listening requires being thoughtful about what the other person needs help with most. For this, you must listen from within their frame of reference. And that’s not easy.

So, do not stay muted as you make efforts to be a good listener. Instead, be clear so that you do not miss or misunderstand what is behind the words.

Needless to say, do not hijack the conversation or make the other person stop talking.

Here are some things that you must do to gain more clarity while listening-

  • Draw out thoughts and encourage the person to elaborate so that you can delve deeper into their thoughts and experiences, and become aware of their deepest needs and positive intentions.
  • Ask questions when you don’t get what they are saying. Otherwise, you will never be able to go there and really understand where the person is coming from.
  • Restate the issue, if required, to solidify your understanding.

 

5. Be present in the conversation

 

Pay full attention to what is going on for the other person, without judging or being judgemental.

While listening, most of the people hear the words as well as think simultaneously- is this right or wrong? Where do I agree or disagree? What am I going to say in response? etc. That is not good listening.

Instead, good listening is all about being a witness, not the judge of the other person’s experience.

So, be genuinely interested, committed, and engaged in the conversation. Also, be available and receptive emotionally as well as through your body language.

Consequently, you will not lose track of the conversation due to your judgments or assumptions. You will feel what the other person is saying and meaning. Also, if he or she begins displaying emotions, you will be ready to handle that.

Here are a few pointers to help you be more mindful and present while listening to others-

  • Neither judge what you hear the other person saying nor draw conclusions about the person.
  • Put aside your smartphone, iPad, or laptop to give 100% of your attention. And look at the person, even if he or she does not look back at you whilst speaking.
  • Be sensitive to their feelings. In case you find yourself drifting into the zone of evaluation and judgement, remind yourself of the purpose behind why you are listening. It will help you bring the focus back on the task of listening.
  • Ask good questions that help the other person delve deeper into their thoughts and experiences as well as lead the conversation in the direction of objectives you want to achieve from listening.

 

Benefits of effective listening for business leaders and people managers

To give you some ideas, here’s a list of objectives or reasons why efficient leaders and managers usually engage in deliberate listening at the workplace-

  • Encourage positive social interaction without being in a hurry
  • Make people feel valued and engaged
  • Hear suggestions or recommendations patiently while working on what’s in the best interest of the company
  • Handle grievances
  • Confront or understand a point of view you reflexively want to deny
  • Help people feel better when they are feeling overwhelmed
  • Build bonds and develop a sense of community
  • Coach the team members
    etc

Wrapping Up

 

There are lots of factors that we need to consider when it comes to communicating with people, and effective listening is one of them.

The most successful leaders and managers really listen to their people.

So, you use the tips above, to become a better and more effective listener. And as a result, you will build more trust, instil higher job satisfaction, make your people feel valuable, and managing difficult people and situations easily and quickly.

Delegate work effectively

Effective delegation is much more than just giving work to people. It is an opportunity to maximise the team’s potential and proactive engagement alongside. And, all senior executives must master the art of effective delegation to have more time to do the things that only they can do. So, here is an article providing valuable tips on how to delegate work to the team more efficiently and effectively.

Guidelines for effective delegation

 

Listed below are the golden principles and strategies of effective delegation at the workplace.

Feel free to share them with all your colleagues and team to maximize your organization’s overall efficiency.

Ensure that delegation is your most appropriate choice.

In other words, assess that delegation is the most suitable choice in the given circumstances.

You must not select the wrong task to delegate.

Here are some points I suggest you keep in mind to avoid mistakes when you delegate tasks-

  • Delegate meaningful work only. Never delegate any task that is unpleasant or demeaning, that you wouldn’t want to do yourself.
  • Do not delegate if the task has not been thought through, or if you yourself are not thoroughly familiar with the task.
    In any case, do not delegate risky or confidential work, and when you are the best person for the job.
  • Ensure that your reasons and the motivation to delegate the task is fair and worthy.

Pick the right person to delegate work

Identify the most appropriate team member to delegate the task.

Here, I would like to highlight that you must match the work requirement with the candidate’s skill sets appropriately.

Choosing the right person for the right job is said to be one of the most important things to do in an effective delegation. Therefore, remember the following points when selecting the right person to delegate the task-

  • Do not delegate a task to a person if it brings a bad effect on the team in the long term in any way.
  • Assign the task to those who are most likely to excel and produce remarkable results. For example, delegate duties to the team members who are closest to the work or who already have a basic understanding of the work. Consequently, you will prepare them for the positions the organisation needs or will need to fill in the future.
  • Ensure that you use a fair selection method.

Get your message across efficiently

Poor communication is often the biggest roadblock to effective delegation process. It’s not enough to simply tell people what to do. So, communicate efficiently to delegate the work successfully.

Make sure that you brief your team member(s) appropriately so that everyone understands and no one is frustrated due to the communication barriers in the delegation process. 

Ask them the additional assistance they need

Let them tell you what they need. Encourage them and let them know that you have full confidence in them.

Verify the interest level.

Confirm that the person is interested and confident in handling the delegated work. This can be done by asking questions such as ‘Do you want to do this work?’ ‘How comfortable are you with the task to be delegated?’ etc.

Keep all the stakeholders informed

 

Inform the new role to the concerned stakeholders so that everyone knows who to contact. Do this once the team member to whom you are delegating the work has completely understood and nodded yes to the assignment.

10 Communication tips to delegate work successfully

The best way to get your message across efficiently for a successful delegation process is to abide by the tips mentioned below-

1. Specify what needs to be done.

Clearly define the desired outcomes and communicate your expectations.

At this point, focus only on what to do, rather than elaborating how to do. Do not overload the other person with unnecessary details. Use plain, simple words that they understand.

Furthermore, avoid jargons or at least define them appropriately as they may confuse the other person.

2. Provide the context and background to the work.

Give a clear picture of your reasons for delegating the work.

3. Highlight the benefits and significance of accomplishing the work.

Share why he or she was chosen for the work and explain why it is important for him or her to take on the work.

4. Ask questions to check their understanding of the task, and what is expected of them.

Ensure that what you said and what the other person heard means exactly what you want to get across.

5. Provide all the information and resources. 

Give all the necessary information required to complete the work. And encourage the other person to stop you and ask questions if anything is not clear.

Ensure that they have access to the equipment and means to achieve the desired results and objectives.

6. Establish clarity on authority levels and boundaries for effective delegation of work.

Describe the authority you are conferring. Explain the person the scenarios when they should refer back to you or others for decision making at a higher level.

Be more mindful and maintain a human touch.

7. Discuss the timelines and deadlines involved.

Don’t command a timeline. Rather ask when they think they can have the work done. Then fix a realistic deadline that’s agreeable and workable for both of you. Also, give reasons for the expected time-frame.

Determine the schedule for checking-in with progress updates. Also agree upon the format and frequency for progress reviews. For example, intermittent face to face reviews with telephone updates, if you are managing an individual remotely.

Communicate compassionately so the other person becomes more receptive to working with you.

8. Understand how they intend to apply their skills and knowledge to fulfil the work responsibilities.

Team members often do not ask questions for fear of being perceived as stupid. So, ask them how they will approach this task. Don’t assume that they know how to do what you are asking them to do.

Pitch in and help, if required. Bridge the knowledge gap, and provide all the support they need from you to successfully achieve the task. Be encouraging and instil confidence.

Summing Up

Let’s wrap up our understanding of how to delegate work to the team members at the workplace.

Delegation is helpful only when it is done appropriately. To delegate effectively, you must choose the right tasks to delegate, identify the right people to delegate to, and delegate in the right way.

You must communicate efficiently and effectively, clarify the authority level and boundaries, provide enough support and resources to ensure successful accomplishment of the delegated work.

Of course, effective delegation is a process that requires some thought and preparation. And delegation skills eventually improve with practice.

Strategies to maximise personal productivity

The following article is meant to guide you on how to increase productivity at work. It provides easy and effective ways to improve personal productivity so that you can complete more number of tasks in lesser time every day.

The purpose of this article is to provide useful tips to help you maximise personal productivity at work so that you become more efficient and perform at your best in the workplace.

Effective ways to increase productivity at work

Almost everyone I encounter these days feels that there is too much work to handle and not enough time to get it all done. And most of them are to some degree frustrated and perplexed about how to improve the situation. So, here are some tips on how to boost productivity and become much more efficient at work.

Value and protect your time at work to boost your productivity

Productivity has a relation with how much time you take to finish specific activities. So, if you are serious about increasing your productivity at work, you must guard your time as you would preserve your gold. 

Here are some suggestions on how to manage your time to maximise productivity at work-

Know the actual per hour value of your time to do what’s essential and off-load the rest

Things seldom go as per your planned schedule at the workplace. A lot of times you have to put your schedule task aside to do something more formidable. Thus, a big part of being productive at work comes from identifying which activities are worth doing and which ones are not. So, know the worth of your time by assigning a price value to it.

Do this to gain clarity on those time-consuming activities that you should eliminate or reduce from your schedule. Furthermore, whenever you have to be selective about tasks, you can weigh the hourly cost of your time against the potential reward from the activity you are considering to undertake and avoid doing things that waste your time

Speed up decision making and communication process to save time and improve productivity.

Decision making often takes up a huge part of the workday for a lot of executives and managers in India. A majority of mental capacity, focus, and attention go at making and communicating decisions. So ensure that you take efficient measures and use pragmatic strategies to avoid wasting time in the decision-making process.

Reduce the negative effects of analysis paralysis in the decision making process and make your communication more efficient

Use technology to increase your working speed and finish work quickly

Let’s be honest. You often do not have enough time to do everything you have to do. The various workplace scenarios demand that you do more number of things in lesser time. So, you must use technology at work to automate your tasks and become super productive in the organisation

Here are a few tips on how you can use technology to increase your productivity at work:

  • Use speech-to-text utility on your phone and laptop, because speaking is faster than typing and clicking.
  • Set up custom gestures on your phone to speed up the repetitive tasks, and use text expansion to stop typing the same phrases over and over.
  • Create email rules to save time whilst reading & sorting through email.
  • Use utility software to schedule meetings, and eliminate the bulk of back-and-forth scheduling emails.

so on and so forth.

There are several automation templates, organisation apps, widgets and tools available in the market that can easily help you improve productivity in the workplace and avoid the waste of time.

Develop a personal system of working and stick with it for maximising your productivity.

In other words, discipline yourself and get more organised to improve your efficiency and increase your productivity at the workplace.

Consider the following tips to manage your actions-

Make front-end decisions about all the tasks and pieces of information you let into your life to become more focussed and organised

Often, mailboxes overflow with updates, reports, transactional emails, and lot more material that anyone could digest in a day. So, develop a systematic method for dealing with the daily influx of mail to control the information overload. This way, you will have a better plan for what you need to do next.

Here’s the process you can use-

Whenever a new task, information, or self-generated idea comes your way, ask and answer the following questions-

  • Is it useful or helpful in any way? Determine if the information or task is potentially beneficial or/and needed for achieving the long-term and short-term objectives.
  • Is It Actionable? Check if it is possible to implement the idea and that you are the right person to do the work.
  • Is it critical? Ascertain if the action is to be taken immediately, or later in the future.

Your answer to these questions will guide your way forward. Based on how you are placed, you can either choose to do the task and finish it at that very moment, delegate it to someone else, or defer it.

On a side note, ensure that you take the next immediate action required to move the task towards completion. And in case you are going to do the task later, consider writing down on your ‘to-do’ list .

Set daily targets and track your progress every day to be more focussed and efficient

Schedule and prioritise your day-to-day activities in advance. This will keep you in the mood to work on tasks, and finish the work in time.

Not many people plan and track their day-to-day activities. Consequently, they fail to take corrective actions in the nick of time.

Successful executives and leaders on the other hand plan their daily activities in advance, go through the day as per the plan, and also measure the performance at the end of the day. By doing so, they get a clear sense of what’s stopping them from achieving peak performance at work.

When you are able to identify what roadblocks are causing you to slowdown at work, you can remove them to maximise your performance and productivity at workplace.

So, spend some time to set your daily goals and monitor your progress. Give yourself short-term deadlines to get things done.  

Plan your daily targets in advance, either at the beginning of the day or as the last thing in the day to prepare for the next day. At night, and review and reflect on how you have done on that day. This will give you a brief understanding of the areas you need to focus on for increasing your productivity at work.

Review the task list weekly to become more effective at work

Examine and update your ‘to-do’ lists periodically. Otherwise, you might forget some work or miss an important deadline.

World over, successful leaders and managers reflect on their task lists regularly. As a result, they can make better plans and more effective schedules.

So, revisit your schedule and planned tasks at least once a week to become more effective and increase productivity at work. Take out time to view the notes, and figure out the agendas and priorities.

Create blocks of prime time for maximising productivity

Figure out the time segments when you can concentrate on critical tasks without any interruption so that you can further increase your productivity at work. Keep this prime-time block sacred. Do those tasks at this time which require intense focus and concentration. Schedule all other less important administrative chores are outside of this prime-time block.

Maintain high energy levels to stay super productive throughout the day.

Has it ever happened with you that you felt a little exhausted or tired after a meeting and then you did not have enough energy left to go through the pending emails in the inbox? 

As human beings, we have a limited reservoir of our energy and it’s difficult to maintain peak energy level throughout the day.

In tune with this point, some of the ways through which you can avoid job burnout and keep up your energy levels at work are listed below

Schedule and take on tasks keeping your energy levels in consideration

Fit your schedule to your physical, mental, and emotional energy levels to finish more tasks. For example: Work on critical tasks when you are fresh and most energetic

Use your productive energy in intense, short bursts of time

Do not work too hard for too long without any break. According to research, the optimal period for working with intense concentration is 90-120 minutes. After that time, the body needs a break of 2-5 minutes to induce biological changes that re-energise you

Adopt better eating habits and lifestyle choices

You can maintain your energy levels throughout the day by incorporating better habits in life. Use bio hacks. Eat light and right. Further, ensure that you get a good night’s sleep every night. And, meditate every day.

Manage your emotions to improve your performance and productivity in the workplace

Every day is a different day. There are times when you may feel bored, out of the flow, or irritated at work. These un-resourceful emotions cause a significant drop in productivity over time.

Regulating emotions at play, therefore, becomes very important in such situations at work.

If you want to continue being highly productive at work, you need to learn the effective ways of managing your emotions efficiently. When your emotions are balanced, your level of productivity is high.

Here are some useful tips for regulating emotions to overcome stress and become more productive at the workplace

Keep your commitments down to a finite, manageable number

Ensure that your to-do list is doable. Too many open loops of commitments may cause overwhelm. So it’s always a good idea to have a manageable to-do list, and politely say no wherever required.

Aim for significant incremental improvements in personal productivity at work

Keep your goals in mind, and make small progress each day. Don’t try to move the mountain in one single go. Instead, take tiny baby steps that require little effort but yield big results. 

For example, work on reducing your report writing time by 10% every day. Aim to add 10% more productive hours to your schedule every week. Read at least 1 good article every day on whatever topics you deal with regularly in your work.

Break the monotony, and inject variety in your schedule to have more enthusiasm for work

As much as possible, do tasks in the order that pleases you. The reason is that focusing on tasks you don’t want to do is emotionally challenging. Pick tasks according to your enthusiasm level. And delegate the work you find uninteresting, distasteful, or boring so that you have more time, energy and enthusiasm left over to utilise for other tasks.

When you feel tired, or you run out of ideas on one project, just switch to another. However, if a deadline is looming, and you don’t have the choice of putting aside the work you don’t want to do, then do something that will help you revitalise. For example, take a walk, wash your face, run an errand, etc. Take a break for a few minutes, and get back to work.

And in case you feel as if you are stuck in the rut at work, then break your daily routine by doing something new. For example, volunteer to participate in activities that you like. A lot of companies organise Thank God It’s Friday, Beat the Monday Blues, and similar employee engagement activities. Actively participate in those activities for a mini change.

Become more resilient and flexible to increase productivity at work

Develop the ability to get your focus back in the work as and when you sense that you are starting to feel out of control, stressed out, unfocused, bored, or stuck.

Distractions are a common thing at the workplace. You can never get a work environment with absolutely no distraction.

Those executives who have more resilient and flexible as compared to others, can get back into the productive states of mind quickly, and handle workplace challenges easily when things don’t go as planned. They do not over-react or under-react in any way.

Resilience and flexibility are thus the keys to becoming more productive at the workplace.

Keep your workspace clutter-free for maximum efficiency and productivity

Keeping workspace clean and orderly always pays off in increased efficiency. It allows you to concentrate on the task at hand in a better way. So, keep the workspace more organised.

Check out the following tips on the actions you can take to be more organised and increase productivity at workplace-

  • Keep things in their appropriate space, and keep them in the same place every time.
  • Use bulletin boards to put tasks, papers, lists, project schedules, and priority items in constant view.
  • Do not acquire a book, DVD, magazine, white-paper, or any reference material unless you need it.
  • Maintain a proper filing system to save information on relevant or interesting topics.
  • Spend a few minutes every week on cleaning out the junk you had saved, but you don’t need. Organise your desk drawer, your laptop home screen, your folders, etc.