Listening: an important management skill

Today I’ve been reading about listening skills and how we convey our interest and attention. To be an effective manager you need to spend a lot of your time listening to your team. When someone is speaking it is important to show your interest because it is one way to form and build a relationship.

Body language is a key element to this. One aspect of that is eye contact. It is important to use the correct amount of eye contact, though it’s very difficult to tell what the correct amount is. Too much eye contact and you are going to make the listener think that you are threatening. Too little eye contact and you are going to appear as if you aren’t actually listening at all.

This is a complex enough area when you are dealing with people from the same culture. From various things I’ve read it appears that the British are taught to look into people’s eyes when they listening. People who don’t do this can be considered to be untrustworthy or unfriendly. Of course they could be just be shy. However, in Japan it is considered rude to look into the eyes of someone who has a higher position than you do – whether they are your boss, your teacher, or your elder.

If body language is so important in showing that you are interested and actively listening to someone, how do we deal with this in the virtual workspace? Many people now interact with their team mates primarily through electronic means. When you are talking to some one over Skype, how can you tell if they are listening to you? Does this make it much harder to manage a virtual team because you are missing one of the tools for relationship building?

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