All lab managers need to develop and use effective communication skills. Many people take a variety of training on public speaking, elevator speeches, and business writing. However, the most important communication skill is listening. It is vital to understand what is important to staff and stakeholders, to gather information, and to receive feedback. Poor listeners can’t harness all of the knowledge and experience surrounding them in the lab, and often wonder why they shoulder such a heavy burden alone. It doesn’t need to be that way. Listening is a skill, like many others, that can be improved with desire, diligence, and practice. You will find that improved listening will lead to more satisfied lab staff, higher engagement, and greater success for the lab. Here are three tips that will help you improve your listening skills.
#1 – Beware of interrupting
You can’t listen and talk at the same time. I’ve heard the phrase many times, “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Use them in that proportion. To listen well, we need to give people the opportunity to speak, even if they aren’t concise, or provide ideas or conclusions with which we disagree. Enable the people around you to have their say. Let them get to the end of the thought. Nothing can shut people down faster than interrupting them mid-thought. Hopefully, they’ll also listen respectfully when it’s your turn to speak.
#2 – Stay focused on the speaker
Even when quiet, many people aren’t really listening. They are formulating their response. Even though the other person hasn’t finished their thought, they are already planning and practicing their rebuttal. Because they are focused internally, and not on the speaker, they no longer really know the point the speaker is trying to make. In these situations, we are assuming the direction and intention of the speaker, rather than really trying to understand their perspective.
#3 – Be curious
Listen to learn. Lab managers with a growth mindset take the opportunity to learn from everyone around them. This is a huge advantage, as they benefit from the different backgrounds, experience, and expertise of the people they encounter. Effective listening enables them to learn faster, solve harder problems, and generate more creative innovations by combining the knowledge of others with their own. The lab environment provides many opportunities to listen and learn with colleagues, stakeholders, and managers. By improving your listening skills, you can open these opportunities for you and your lab.
Thanks for reading. I hope you can use this information. I am very interested in hearing from you. If you have feedback or comments on this set of tips, or suggestions for future Manager Minutes, I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking forward to our conversations. Thanks.