Motivating Your Employees – Active Listening


Non-financial motivation of your team when you are the manager is a tricky business. It’s difficult and challenging, but also fun and rewarding. Since financial means to motivate people are most of the times not available and even if they were, it’s a proven fact that as you go higher on the ladder people are no longer motivated by money, the question is for you as a manager – what do you do to keep your team together, functioning at highest standards? Well, one idea would be to do “active listening“.
What is active listening?
It’s that moment in a conversation when not only you  stop talking, but really listen to the other, show by various means that you are listening and don’t offer any personal opinions on the matter. Active listening is listening, understanding and showing that you have understood. This doesn’t mean that you agree, you just show you understand.
How is it useful?
It makes the person you are talking to feel important. And making people feel important is another very strong non-financial motivator. It builds a stronger relationship between individuals who know each other better (because they listen to each other’s opinions) and who trust each other.
How do you do it?
There are certain techniques by which you show that you are listening actively:

  • Paraphrasing – to repeat parts of what the other has told you, but in your own words;
  • Repeating – to repeat the last words the other has mentioned in the form of a question – to ask if you have understood correctly what he/she said;
  • Summarizing – to repeat the other’s ideas in a shorter version and in your own words;
  • Asking questions – asking for additional details either through closed questions (Yes/No) or open questions (that ask for more information and keep the conversation going);
  • Verbal signs: Uh – uh, Yeah, I see, OK, Of course, Oh;
  • Non-verbal signs – tilting your head, visual contact, body language (staying with your body towards the speaker), raising your eyebrows to show interest;

Can you learn how to do it? Can you practice it somehow?

Of course. Not everybody is good at that. Some even have great difficulties listening actively. There are aggressive people that need to have a say in everything, that interrupt you when speaking, that keep asking questions even if you haven’t finished your idea. Here’s an idea of what I did with my team – I learned this during a course and applied it with the ladies:

  1. Once a week we had our department meeting – at the end of the meeting we had our “active listening” exercise;
  2. One of the ladies was the speaker, one was listening actively and the other was evaluating the listener;
  3. We would pick a theme – preferably something controversial like death penalty, drugs, abortion, divorce;
  4. The speaker had 10 minutes to speak about the theme, the listener to actively listen (this involved not offering any personal opinion whatsoever) and the evaluator to determine whether the listener did indeed listen actively or not, how many of the techniques she used and what else could have been improved in the process;
  5. They would switch places three times – this way each of them got to be the listener.
The exercise was useful as they got to know each other better, to respect their opinions and after a while they would use what they learned in everyday duties, not only during the exercise.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Are you a good active listener? Do you know any people who don’t know how to listen and could use this exercise?

Take care,