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Your entire job as a manager is to listen. Your entire job.

The reason you listen is to find out what is really going on, sufficiently that you can repeat it back as if you were expressing those very same sentiments.

The purpose of listening is not to solve problems other people can solve. 

The purpose of listening is not to do therapy. 

It's not a schmooze-fest.

Managers listen to improve productivity. Where are people wasting time, or duplicating effort? Why are they working that way, when there is another way so much easier? 

Why are they taking those assignments, when they're outside of scope?

What is happening at all those theater-stadium meetings, that take up so much of everyone's time?

Who is feeling frustrated, disempowered, blocked from doing what you're paying them to do?

What are the interpersonal conflicts?

People, and relationships, are not a small thing at work. They are huge.

You listen to improve the quality of relationships on the team.

You listen to monitor and improve employee satisfaction.

Listening is a big job. You cannot rely on what limited sources tell you. You cannot rely on email. You cannot rely on the people who make you feel most comfortable.

Yes, it is true that your job has other components. Decision-making. Trend-scanning. Strategy-setting. Project work. Administrivia.

But your job as a manager has only one key performance indicator: the quantity and quality of your listening skills.

Which you then reflect back to staff, colleagues, boss, and customers inside and outside the enterprise.

And leverage for exponentially better results than anyone ever thought possible.

Which, in the big picture, is what your job is all about.

* All opinions my own.

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Tags: communications, leadership, management


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Comment by Cheryl Brinson on February 24, 2014 at 11:03am

Good one. Listening is very important and the skill to do it............ some have and some don't.

Comment by Ryan Arba on February 24, 2014 at 9:15am

Thanks for the post, Dannielle.  I was intrigued by the title because it reminded me of "Management by Walking Around," which I think is the most misinterpreted piece of management advice to date.  Instead of walking around to catch employees in "gotcha" moments, managers should walk around to listen, like you advise.  

Comment by David B. Grinberg on February 22, 2014 at 1:11pm

Nice post, Dannielle.  You raise several excellent points.

Active listening is an important skill for any manager. As Larry King once remarked:

  • "I never learned anything while I was talking."
Comment by Dale Fowler on February 21, 2014 at 9:30am

Nicely done. Enjoyed reading this thoughtful piece.

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