Thursday, 3 September 2009

What's more important for a good manager - talking or listening?

There are many skills a good manager needs to possess. The ability to communicate is often listen quite high within these. But sometimes it does not seem that all managers understand what communication actually means.

Communication skills are often mistaken for the ability to communicate something to someone, e.g. to tell someone what to do. And that's part of the job. A good manager needs to be able to communicate the company strategy, the daily requirements and the expectations to their staff. He also needs to be able to delegate, to tell people what they are supposed to do and to ensure they do it.

But if this is all that is required for communication, then communication would be a one-way street: I say, you do.

This understanding might be correct in a military dictatorship where you are simply expected to do as you are being told. But it is not a good way to manage a team in a democracy and this attitude is one of the easiest way to alienate and finally lose good staff.

The key to the understanding of good communication skills is that you need to be able to tell and to listen. You have to be able to get your message across.

But then you need to be able to listen, to hear what your staff says, how the react, how they feel. They might come up with objections as to why they can't fulfill your request. Or they might have even better ideas. They might also try to understand your brief correctly and by listening, you will be able to find out if they really understood correctly what is needed, thus avoiding misunderstandings.

At the same time it is pointless if you understand exactly what your team feels, wants and needs. You might be a good listener and maybe even a friend, but you can't guide the team successfully if you can't communicate the requirements for the team and can't ensure that they know everything important for them to do their job.

Talking and listening need to be utilised side-by-side to make you a good manager as one without the other is useless. You need to be able to hear feedback and you need to be able to pass information and feedback on.

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