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Why so many managers have poor listener syndrome

October 22, 2018

By Heather Nezich, courtesy SBAM Approved Partner ASE

The same qualities that describe a good listener, describe a good leader: respect, concern, an openness to new ideas, empathy, compassion, curiosity, trust, loyalty, and receptivity.  However, one of the lowest rated behaviors in 360-feedback surveys for managers is listening.

Once the reason is identified for the poor listening, it can be solved for.  Here are some of the most common culprits:

1. They don’t know they are poor listeners – Often times they just don’t realize they are not listening.  They intend to listen and think they are listening.

How to fix it:  Ask for feedback.  Managers should always be asking their staff for direct feedback.  Otherwise, they are likely to cruise along thinking everything is fine.
2. They don’t understand the value of listening – Some people don’t understand the impact poor listening can have on others.  And again, they usually don’t realize they are doing it.  These types of people often require coaching or additional training.

How to fix it: Get them the training they need once the problem has been identified.  Show managers examples of how active listening can improve outcomes.

3. They don’t know how to listen – While their intentions may be good, if they are not displaying behaviors that indicate good listening they will be perceived as a bad listener.

How to fix it:  Make leaders aware of behaviors that indicate good listening skills:
Making eye contact
Head nodding
An open posture
Leaning forward
Arms uncrossed
Using encouraging phrases such as “go on”, “tell me more”, etc.  Asking clarifying questions.
Not interrupting
4. They are impatient, smart, or easily distracted – Highly successful, intelligent, type A leaders often have a hard time slowing down and taking the time to listen.  They’ll often try to finish someone else’s sentence, use gestures to speed the conversation along, or begin to drift from the conversation.  They’ll often check their phone while being spoken to.

How to fix it:  Managers should be trained to shut the door, turn off the phone, and give 100% of their focus to the person speaking to them.  This is common courtesy, and all employees should be encouraged to do this.
5. They listen selectively – Often times managers already think they know everything and simply choose not to listen to their employees.  This is the most common reported problem on 360-feedback reviews.  Employees report that the manager listens to superiors but not direct reports.

How to fix it: Remind managers that their employees are the ones in the trenches doing the work.  Their feedback is invaluable.  A good manager realizes that their department will succeed only when functioning as a team.
Additional ASE Resources:
ASE Coaching – Provide your leaders one-on-one and group developmental support to achieve their highest potential.  For more information on ASE coaching services, please contact Mike Burns.
ASE Training Courses – ASE provides several courses that specialize in building listening and other communication skills, such as Body Language: Non-Verbal Communication and Communicate Confidently.  The next Body Language: Non-Verbal Communication class will be held in 2019 and announced soon.  The next Communicate Confidently class is Thursday, October 25, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 pm. Learn more or register here.

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