• Clare Eager

Are we really listening ?

Published in the Peterborough Telegraph on the 11th February 2021

I guess in these Covid times it might be hard to distinguish one ‘depressing’ day from another, especially during this third lockdown when many people’s resilience is at an all time low and people are just putting their heads down and just trying to get through to the light at the end of the tunnel, the vaccines.

However, there is still a long way to the end of the tunnel, and it’s not going to be until everyone is out of the tunnel that a new ‘norm’ can evolve. So, what can employers do in the meantime?

The Samaritan’s advocate active listening and I believe that over the past year, whilst employers have had to focus on keeping their business going, some of the considered ‘niceties’ have had to be put to one side. In situations of pressure, a directive leadership style can return to the fore and other styles of leadership can slide into the background along with some of their attributes, including active listening.

Active listening means mentally being beside the person, in their space and being empathetic with their thoughts and feelings, not trying to solve or placate or make them feel better. Especially now, this can be an uncomfortable place for many managers as they want their employees to ‘get things done’ therefore, part of a manager’s role is to facilitate solutions for their employee which culminate in a timely result. Active listening is a key element in communication, and free flowing – two way communication enables managers and employees to keep connected. The greater the quality of communication and connection between a leader and his employees, the greater the chance of positive productivity.

In directorial leadership, active listening is essentially thrown out the window and employees are told what to do, but I would encourage managers to remember the fabulous results low directive behaviour combined with high supportive behaviour enabled within their team members and re-commit to participating in active listening with each of them. Often, the employee has the answer and solution, they just need to have the space and support to reach the answer, without judgement.

Active listening enables people to feel they have been heard. At a time when anxiety levels are exacerbated by these extreme circumstances, perhaps we could all practice active listening once again.

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