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Top 5 ways to listen to your staff

Staying focused on the speaker will improve your leadership skills

Listening is one of the most important skills we have in our leadership toolbox. The extent of your ability to listen will not only have a key impact on your job performance and effectiveness, but will also assist in developing strong relationships with others.

In a normal day we seem to have a lot we listen for. We listen to obtain information, to understand, for enjoyment and to learn.

It would seem that, if a major part of our day is spent listening, then why are we not better at our listening skills? As emergency care providers we have been trained fix patients' problems in frantic times. When we are listening to a speaker and presented with a problem or challenge, all we want to do it fix it. So we interrupt, or we start to think of a solution while the speaker is still talking.

These actions cause us to miss the true message that the speaker is trying to convey. As a leader, this could easily lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding. So, practice the skill of active listening will help you to avoid this issue..

There are five basic fundamentals of active listening. Follow the elements below and you will soon notice your listening skills increase.

1. Focus on the speaker.

It takes a lot for someone to come and talk to you. They deserve your undivided attention. Take notice of the non-verbal communication at this time; this is an important part of understanding the message. 

  • Make good eye contact. Looking down at the ground or at your cell phone sends a message of disinterest.
  • Do not allow yourself to have distracting thoughts. Concentrate on what is being said rather than what's for lunch, or who you have to call back.
  • Do not start thinking of a response or counter point. It may be that this person just wants to vent rather than get your opinion.
  • Avoid environmental distractions. Do not take phone calls, look at your computer screen or watch other people. Once you engage in a conversation with another person there is nothing more important than the person who is addressing you. This will assist in building a strong relationship and a good reputation of caring.

2. Show that you are listening.

Allow yourself to naturally be engaged with the speaker. Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.

  • Nod occasionally.
  • Use your facial expressions as appropriate.
  • Make sure your posture is open and inviting. Be receptive to a conversation when you are approached. Regardless if you are standing or sitting, angle yourself toward the other person. Keep an upright posture with your arms uncrossed.
  • You can encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments. Use "yes", "uh huh" and "I see" as appropriate. 

3. Offer Feedback.

At times we allow our assumptions, judgments, and beliefs to interfere with what we hear. Your role as a listener is to understand what is being said. For clarification of what you are hearing, you may need to ask questions.

  • Paraphrasing will help you understand what was said. "What I'm hearing is," and "Sounds like what you are saying," are great ways to reflect back.
  • Use questions to clarify certain points. "What do you mean when you say." or "Is this what you mean?"
  • Sum up the speaker's comments periodically.

4. Wait to pass judgment.

This is a tough one. Sometimes we just need to listen and not try to fix the situation. Butting in or interrupting the speaker only leads to frustration. Once the speaker is frustrated this will limit a full understanding of the message.

  • Permit the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.
  • Don't interject with your counter arguments.
  • Never allow your emotions to dictate your actions

5. Answer appropriately.

Think of active listening as an approach for developing a respect and understanding for the speaker. They are sharing information and perspective. You gain zilch by attacking the speaker or putting them or their ideas down. 

  • Always be sincere, open, and truthful in your response.
  • Share your opinions respectfully.
  • Remember it's important to  treat the people the what you'd expect to be treated in the same situation 

As a new leader you will hear folks tell you to always hear what your employees are saying to you. This is really good advice. Instead of just listening to what your employees are saying, try listening to what they are feeling instead. This shift in philosophy will cause you to focus more on the conversation, develop active listening skills and build stronger relationships.

About the author:

Chris Cebollero is a  nationally recognized Emergency Medical Services leader, author, and advocate. With close to 30 years experience directing and coordinating hundreds of Emergency Medical Technicians, paramedics, dispatchers, and support staff. Currently Chris is the Chief of Christian Hospital EMS in North St Louis County.


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