IT Managers Have To Become Good At Listening

by drjim on November 12, 2015

Are you a good listener?

Are you a good listener?
Image Credit: Madhavi Kuram

How good are your IT manager skills? Have you ever gotten any IT manager training on how to really connect with the members of your team? I’m willing to bet that the answer to this question is no. What that means is that as you manage your team, you are going to have to learn how best to connect with your team. This will require that you take the time to develop some good listening skills.

Why We’re Not Good Listeners

The harsh truth of the matter is that both you and I are not good listeners. It’s really not our fault, it just turns out that humans are not set up to do a good job of listening to other humans. However, before we can solve this problem, first we need to make sure that we understand what is causing it.

As we all know by now, stories are at the heart of how we humans communicate. Because we like to exchange stories with other people, we are programmed to interrupt when someone is talking. In fact, we spend a lot of our time during a conversation not listening, but rather just waiting to start talking again. Along the same lines, most of us are uncomfortable when it comes to emotions. What this means is that if someone is expressing emotions while talking with us, we’ll avoid focusing on them.

There’s another problem. The experts call this “listener burnout”. This can happen when we are faced with someone who is just droning on and on about something. When we find ourselves in this situation, we often try to offer the other person some quick advice just to fix the situation and get them to stop talking!

The Power Of Active Listening

As an IT manager, you really need to get better at this listening thing. What this means is that you need to learn how to become an “active listener”. In order to be an active listener, you need to have an engaged presence in the conversation. You need to be fully in the moment with the other person. It is not enough to be just paying partial attention to them.

The scientists who study listening tell us that we need to master what are called “immediacy behaviors”. These are behaviors that will signal your interest in the conversation to the other party. One of the simplest ways to go about doing this is to put away your cell phone – don’t let it take your attention away from the conversation.

You also need to make eye contact with the person who is talking. As they speak, allow your face to reflect your reaction to what they are saying. Finally, you need to reflect the other party’s feelings back to them. You can do this by summarizing what they’ve said in brief comments like “that must have been very stressful.”

What All Of This Means For You

In our hurry up society, it can be all too easy for us to move too quickly to be able to really connect with the members of our team. However, this kind of connection is very important both for them and for us. What this means for you as an IT manager is that you are going to have to learn to listen better in order to accomplish your IT team building goals.

It turns out that listening is hard to do. More often than not, when we are involved in a conversation, we are so eager to start to talk that we don’t take the time to listen to what the other person is saying. However, if we take the time to practice what is called “active listening” and allow ourselves to become an engaged presence in the conversation then we’ll be able to connect with the other person.

In our age of iPhones and SnapChat apps, having the skills necessary to connect with the members of your team is a critical IT manager skill. You may not have this skill right now, but you can work on it and develop it. Take the time to start to practice active listening and you just might be amazed at what you learn!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How much time each day do you think that you should spend improving your listening skills?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you give it some thought, just exactly what does an IT manager need to do in order to be successful? Is it as simple as just doing what you’ve been told to do? I’d be willing to say that this is not the correct answer to this question. Instead, I think that our company is expecting us to use our IT manager skills and show some creativity. The question is do you have the courage to do this?

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