Businesses thrive on the successful completion of projects. Project managers allocate resources and interact with customers. It is the project manager's responsibility to keep the team focused and motivated. He or she also plays a major role in successful completion of the project.
If you want to succeed, you need to communicate well consistently. Active listening is an important part of effective communication. Fortunately, active listening techniques can be learned easily. By learning the various techniques that will better help you to connect with your team members, you can be a more successful leader.
There is a significant difference between hearing and listening. You hear sounds when the sound waves strike your eardrums. You "hear" the sound of a truck passing by, but you "listen" when your boss is speaking about your appraisal. You hear many sounds every day; like the sound of the traffic, the sound of the TV and the sound of the children playing. You can hear a person speaking without listening to the words. Hearing happens with our without your permission.
Listening goes beyond the natural hearing process. You are "listening" when you hear something with your full attention, with an intention to understand what the other person is saying. Listening involves thoughts and feelings. It requires concentration. As a project manager, it is very important for you to "listen" to you speaker. Usually there are barriers to effective listening; like prejudices, distractions and misunderstandings, but they can be easily overcome.
Clarifying helps you ensure that you have understood the speaker correctly. It also conveys that you are interested and are actively involved in the conversation. Clarifying is a great way to demonstrate active listening. You may use statements like, "Let me see if have understood correctly" or "Are you saying…?". Clarifying may also result in the speaker giving you more useful information.
Restating means, "To state again in a new form". The is a very useful technique which conveys to the speaker very clearly that you are listening. It also helps you to ensure that you have understood the speaker correctly. You may use statements like, "You would like to…Is that right?".
Reflecting the speaker's feelings conveys that you understand how he or she feels. This technique clearly conveys that you are very much involved in the conversation. Reflecting is a very effective way to demonstrating active listening. You may use statements like, "I see that you are gung-ho about…".
Encourage your speaker with words like, "Tell me more about…" or "Sounds good. Do you have any suggestions…?" Encouragement conveys to the speaker that you are interested and listening. This works well especially with a brilliant, but shy, team member who is full of ideas. It is advisable to use varying intonation while encouraging the individual. It is a good idea to use neutral words.
While summarizing, restate the ideas that were discussed. It is a good idea to convey that you understand how the other person feels while summarizing. You may use statements like, "Let me see this if I have got this correctly…" Summarizing ensures that you have understood what the other person is trying to say. It clearly conveys to the other person that you were listening.
Validating conveys to the other person that you are listening and respect him/her as an individual. You may use statements like, "I appreciate your…"This is a very powerful technique which will add warmth into the conversation. It will definitely enhance your value as an individual.
Offer suggestions during the conversation. It is a great way to continue the conversation. You may use words like, "Have you thought of doing…?" This technique can be used in team meetings.
While the other person is speaking respond with short interjections like, "Ok", "Yes", "Aha," and "Alright". This is powerful technique to convey that you are actively involved in the conversation even though you may not be speaking. One word of caution: You need to ensure that you are not interrupting the other person with your interjections.
You can convey that you are listening to the other person through your body language. Maintain eye contact during conversation, taking care that you are not staring continuously at the speaker. It is advisable to take notes. Be expressive. It is advisable to be natural as far as possible. Giving a slight nod is a great way to demonstrate active listening. Have an open posture. It is a good idea to lean slightly towards the speaker. It is very important to consciously avoid negative body language, like turning away or frowning.
Active listening fosters understanding and reduces conflicts. The aformentioned techniques go a long way in improving your relationships with various project stakeholders. They help you become a better project manager if practiced consistently.
- Author unknown, “Active Listening“, Conflich Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA.
- Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/ File: US Army 51968; Author: Deborah Erhart; image under public domain license.