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One of the most effective ways to motivate staff is to actively listen to them.

The process of active listening may sound simple but its effects are profound and far-reaching.

I was running a workshop for senior managers on assertion and communication skills.  One of the managers, who had seemed highly motivated by the session on active listening, did not turn up until morning tea on the second day.  As I was wondering what had happened , he came up to me and said:

After yesterday’s session, I decided I would call into work first before coming to the workshop.  I had acknowledged to myself that there was one employee who I barely took notice of and never said hello to in the mornings – he was my worst performer.  So today I sat with him and actively listened for two hours!  I learned that he did not really understand the job and his role and was totally lacking in confidence.  This was a revelation to me as he seemed so sure of himself.

The senior manager in question reported to me three months later that the employee had become his best employee – in an area were results could be measured in cold, hard dollars.  Not a bad ROI for two hours of being human!!

By really listening to your employee, you affirm their personal worth – that they are important and worth listening to.  You effectively acknowledge that they have needs, the fundamental need being the need to communicate with you as their manager.

Active listening, though, involves vulnerability – leaving yourself open to being influenced by what the employee has to say.   There is also an accountability involved – acting on their comments, where appropriate, completes the motivation cycle.

When was the last time you really listened to an employee?  Your failure to listen to employees as a manager may be one factor contributing to an employee’s poor performance.

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