The forgotten half of communication skills for bosses

Keith Tatley

How to Use Active Listening Skills to Coach Employees to Solve Their Own Problems

Think of a boss – that’s the person who tells everyone what to do, right? The thing is that no-one likes being told what to do. Successful managers don’t just rely on their authority to boss people around. Instead successful managers have a much stronger form of personal power and that’s the power to communicate persuasively. And one of the most persuasive, but little known, forms of communication is using active listening skills to coach employees to solve their own problems.



When we think about communication skills people usually think about talking or writing.

But communication is a two-way street. Without listening, you’re not communicating, you’re just broadcasting. Listening is the other half of successful communication.

What is your Active Listening communication score? Take the Quiz to find out.

What I’d like to share with you is some of the powerful ways that you can use active listening to be a better boss.

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking” Bernard M. Baruch

 5 Ways to Use Active Listening to be a Better Boss

1. Coach Your Employees to Solve their Own Problems

When your employees bring you a problem the natural urge is to solve the problem for them ASAP. But the problem is that when you solve your employees’ problems for them, then you’re training them to bring you their problems to solve. What you end up with is more problems, not fewer. Instead of showing them that you know the answer, invest a little time to coach them through finding their own solution.  

2. Build Better Relationships with Employees

Listening is essentially the whole premise behind Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Humans have a basic need to be understood. Listening to people helps them to feel valued. Conversely working for a boss who doesn’t listen to you destroys motivation. This is why your One-on-One Meetings with Employees always start with their agenda.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them” Ralph G. Nichols 

3. Create Ownership

Ownership is that manager nirvana where your employees take responsibility for their work. When you tell your employee what to do, they don’t own your solution. But when you use active listening skills to coach them to come up with their own solution, they also have the ownership to prove that their solution works.

4. Stimulate Creativity, Innovation & Problem Solving

Successful bosses don’t try to do everything themselves. Successful bosses are the bosses who can leverage the unique skills and abilities of every employee on their team. Got a complex problem that you don’t have the time to solve? Delegate the responsibility to your employee and then coach them through their own problem solving. This isn’t just a problem solving technique because your employee’s love learning and growing.

5. Faster Problem Solving

Train your employees to solve their own problems and they won’t need to wait to find the time in your busy diary. Don’t let your long to do list become a massive bottleneck.

Make Managing is Easy

Managing employees is difficult because people are complex and school doesn’t teach you how to be a better boss. If you want to be a better boss, giving effective performance communication is one of the essential manager skills that you need to develop. But don’t forget that half of communication is listening. And effective managers know how to use listening to build better relationships, create ownership, stimulate growth, encourage innovation and build problem solving.

Make Managing Easy

So the next time your employees come to you with a problem, resist your natural urge to quickly solve the problem for them. Instead of telling them what to do, use active listening skills to coach your employees to solve their own problems.

This article is a guest post from Manager Foundation which specialises in showing people the soft skills they need to create a happier, more productive workplace.

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