We recently talked about how improving your listening skills can make you a better leader, helping you to be more effective in understanding, supporting and developing employees. As a manager, knowing how to listen to staff during training is a particularly important leadership skill.
Employee training sessions provide managers with some of the best opportunities to engage in important conversations with staff and collect valuable feedback. Take a look at your current training program – are employees being given the chance to contribute, or are your business leaders doing all the talking?
Training should be a mutually beneficial process, where employees and managers can learn from each other and grow, through conversations that are a two-way street. As Amy Jen Su, co-owner of executive training firm Paravis Partners, says – “as a leader, you need to have a strong voice and you need to know when it’s time to listen.”
Here are some steps you can take, to make sure you’re maximizing your potential to listen to employees throughout training.
Good listeners know how to practice ‘active’ listening, using a combination of “physical, mental, and emotional presence” to form a stronger connection with people as they speak. When using active listening, it’s important to maintain eye contact, turn your head and body towards the speaker and use physical cues such as nodding while listening.
Evan Hackel, author of the book Ingaging Leadership, takes this concept of active listening further, believing it’s just as important to “actively listen for what people are saying that is right, not wrong” and encouraging leaders to “stay alert for the good and useful things employees say.”
Hackel suggests that by focusing on trying to hear what is right in what another person is saying, rather than what is wrong, you can focus on the right issues instead of any preconceptions about what problems might be. He calls this approach “looking for kernels of wisdom” and believes it can significantly improve the way we listen, while allowing leaders to learn more about the perspective and talents of individual staff members.
“When I focus on trying to hear what is right in what another person is saying, I learn more, discover promising and even brilliant ideas, and focus on the right issues instead of my preconceptions about what problems might be,” Hackel says.
Another way for employers and managers to show they’re listening to their staff is to get them more involved in the design of training programs. This can have great benefits for an organization, as it’s often employees who can identify problem areas and training hiccups that leaders may not have a clear view of.
Ask staff for input on the type of training they want and need. This way, you’ll be able to design a training program around what employees need to learn; not what you think they need to learn to do their jobs.
As well as getting staff involved in the planning stages, continue to ask for feedback while training is being delivered. There’s no reason why you need to wait until the end of a training session or program to see if it’s been effective – if issues are identified during the course, address them as you go.
Ask employees questions as you go, listening carefully to their responses. Onboarding can be a particularly good opportunity to listen, as new hires can bring fresh perspectives and honest insight into the training practices of your business.
Ongoing feedback allows you to keep adjusting your sails to the wind, making your training methods more effective and improving the results for your employees and organization.
At the conclusion of a training session or program, you may think the opportunity for feedback ends there. However, by continuing to engage staff in meaningful discussion about training methods, you can commit to continually improving your activities within this area.
It’s also important to show that you’ve listened to feedback provided, by taking action on constructive points. Hackel points out that after listening, “certain business processes may need to change [as] implementing new and improved processes goes hand in hand with listening.” Employees will appreciate that you’re making changes to training based on their feedback, which will further encourage them to continue this dialogue in a positive way.
After following these steps, you should be able to once again look at your training program and know that employees are being given the chance to discuss, review and contribute to training methods within the organization. Showing staff that you know how to listen to their individual voices will also help to create a more positive work culture, with each team member feeling more valued and connected.