Front-Line Management 101: Listen. Stop Talking. Listen.

It doesn’t matter if you are managing one employee or 100. Listening is the No. 1 task you must do as a manager.

When was the last time you listened to your employees? Really listened—when you weren’t thinking about how to respond, what task to do next, or when to get to the next meeting?

It doesn’t matter if you are managing one employee or 100. Listening is the No. 1 task you must do as a manager. All other activities tie into it. When I was in the military, it was how I learned the ways my sailors were unique—and how they each could contribute to our ship’s goals. When I was in a corporate office, it was how I learned how to challenge employees whose ages ranged from 20s to 60s.

Why listen? When you were an individual contributor, your focus was on accomplishing your own goals. As a manager, your focus is on accomplishing your team’s goals—which will help you accomplish your goals. How do you know if you are getting your goals accomplished if you don’t listen to the people doing the work?

Here are a few ways to listen more:

  1. Focus: No distractionsno phones, laptops, interruptions. If you do get interrupted, find another time to meet.
  2. Talk the least: If a conversation is 10 minutes, aim to speak less than half of that time—ideally 25 percent or less. You don’t have all the answers. Find out if they do.
  3. Go into “receive-only mode”: Recognize who the “leader” is in the conversation—and let them guide the conversation while you visually show you are listening.

Have other ways to listen to your team? E-mail:

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