3 Ways Active Listening Skills Make For More Productive Meetings
All managers know that true listening is an indispensable skill, but one that must be cultivated. In the busy rush of our daily lives, we often miss the mark when it comes to listening to others. This is especially true in the business sphere, where we each have our own tasks that take precedence in our minds over everything else.
Meetings can be viewed as boring or useless, but we still continue to have them in every aspect of business. The fact of the matter is we cannot function without them. Instead of trying to completely remove them, have truly productive meetings with your team. The key to this is a strategy called active listening. By honing your active listening skills, not only will you be able to increase information retention for your team, but also team engagement.
The first step to better meetings is to make sure that everyone speaks. You will always have some team members who are more willing to speak out and share their ideas than others, but this doesn’t mean that your more loquacious team members are the only ones with ideas worth sharing. Ensure that your entire team is getting a chance to participate in the conversation by specifically asking what their thoughts are. While this can initially startle more introverted team members, once it becomes the precedent, it will encourage everyone to prepare speaking points and questions. Additionally, calling on anyone who hasn’t spoken up recently means that no one can zone out or become distracted. The knowledge that they could be called on at any point in time keeps team members engaged throughout the entire meeting, instead of their eyes glazing over as they think about other things.
Clarification and summaries
Clarification is more than asking a follow up question and getting a simple answer. The best way to use active listening for clarification is to reword what you’re hearing before asking for more information. For example, saying, “So, what I’m hearing you say is that our project is behind schedule because of two unexpected issues with the code on the home page. Do you have an updated time estimate for when this phase will be completed?” By doing this, you show the other person that you are paying attention, and give them a chance to correct or elaborate what they were trying to communicate to you. Instead of wasting 15 minutes in a conversation to find out that you two were talking about different tasks for the project, use this strategy as a quick way to ensure you are both on the same page.
In a similar way, summaries at the end of every meeting offer further clarification, a chance to bring up any other business, and confirm everyone’s next steps after the meeting. When is the next meeting? Do certain people have tasks and deadlines? You don’t need full meeting minutes; highlights and to-do’s should be quickly reviewed instead.
Another benefit of using active listening skills in meetings is building trust with your team. Some team members may not share new ideas or concerns openly if they feel they will be brushed off. This can cause issues if problems are not addressed, and it means you miss out on new ideas that could be huge successes. Use interactive meetings to create a safe space where team members feel able to talk out new ideas without the possibility of immediately being shut down or receiving harsh judgment. Obviously, not every idea will be practical or possible, but by giving everyone a place where they can bring up feedback, they will be more willing to share with you and their team. At the end of the meeting, your team will feel more invested and appreciated.
Engaged teams are more productive teams. By taking the time to practice active listening, you’ll increase productivity and nip possible miscommunications in the bud.
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