A drifting gaze. Fidgeting hands. Constant interruptions. It’s easy to spot when someone isn’t paying attention, a common occurrence in our hypermodern era where everything is a distraction. But at work, paying attention drives productivity. It’s important to listen up.
A guest article in Forbes titled “Why Most Leaders Need to Shut Up and Listen” says that leaders must “surrender the floor” to engage employees. It goes on to explain how amplifying a leadership message without asking for employee feedback can be disastrous, minimizing what might have been a more positive outcome.
Employees typically heed the words of employers, but employers often forget to share the megaphone. Managers must learn to tune in to their workforce if they want to be successful leaders. Participating in conversations with an orientation toward really attending to the nuances of what’s happening in the present moment could mean the difference in optimizing team culture, retention, and performance.
According to Amy Zoe Schonhoff, founder of Mindfulness in the Heartland and former HR professional, every moment matters whether at work or at home. Schonhoff, a teacher of mindfulness-based interventions, conducts trainings across the country for a variety of workplaces. She has seen both sides of leadership and knows that listening well is critical to personal and professional health.
Here are Schonhoff's suggestions for a three-step approach to becoming a more mindful manager who listens well, communicates better, and learns more from his or her workforce:
Listen to Employees
Don’t just listen to respond. Instead of thinking of your response during a conversation with a colleague, really focus your attention on what the other person is saying. Listen to hear and understand. Be curious and interested in what they have to say. Respond with questions or inquire further about the topic being shared.
Speak with Intention
Before sharing your thoughts verbally, consider these checkpoints: Is what you're going to say really true for you? Is it kind? Is it beneficial to the conversation? Is it necessary? Is the timing right? If all answers are yes, share away!
Embody your Communication
Be aware of shifts in your body and mind during a discussion. Notice how your body responds to the exchange. Are you calm and at ease? Or do you notice physical sensations consistent with a stress response? Do you shift away from listening while the other person is still talking? What emotions arise as you are in dialogue? Awareness will allow you to monitor your response to the exchange and to recenter yourself, if necessary.
Schonhoff explains that toggling between these three actions can help us to stay grounded and truly connected to what’s happening moment-to-moment in a conversation, both for ourselves, and the other person.
She also points out that every conversation begins with an intent, so an important component of the equation is to have clarity on what we want to cultivate in our working relationships through the vehicle of communication. How do we want to be perceived? How do we want the other person to feel about themselves? About the quality of our professional relationship?
At Staffbase, we try to keep our feet on the ground and our minds connected to do our best and most mindful work. Our New York office has an optional meditation class on Mondays for employees, and staff in our Chemnitz headquarters recently enjoyed a yoga series. To encourage mindful communication between employees and managers, we offer video conferencing capabilities for remote workers, and suggest weekly one-on-one discussions that assist teams with being on the same page. We also gather as a team for coffee once a week to discuss ongoing projects in the office and take turns hosting "Pasta Fridays" where colleagues chat and carb up mindfully before the weekend begins.
Our daily interactions offer rich opportunities to grow as individuals and as teams. Embracing the process of mindful communication can help managers foster a more connected and engaged workforce that values open dialogue and feedback.