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Why Do You Need to Listen Better?

Why Do You Need to Listen Better?

How are your rapport building skills? The relationships that you form with each of your direct reports are central to your ability to fulfil your responsibilities as a manager: A managerial relationship is different to other types of relationship. You can be friendly but not friends. You need to care, without getting overly close or trying to be popular. You must also challenge your people directly and tell them when their work isn’t good enough, without creating a sense of discouragement and failure. That’s quite a hard thing to do.

One of the best ways to build a good relationship with your employees is to make sure they feel heard.

Find out what your people are thinking. Ask for feedback from your employees, and show you care. This starts with effective one-to-ones. Make sure your employee sets the agenda, not you.

Listen carefully. Showing you’re listening is important not just for your relationship with each of your direct reports, but for everyone who works for them. Make notes and ask questions to check your understanding.

What employees want from their manager is somebody who can help them grow professionally. People grow most when they make mistakes. This means that you’ll build better relationships by sharing your feedback than by having idle conversation.

Feedback includes both praise and criticism. Praise your employees early, often, and in public. Be specific about what was good and why. Be honest — if you don’t mean it, don’t say it. Remember, the purpose of praise is not to boost egos; it’s to boost learning and growth.

Help your team members nurture new ideas; creating a culture of debate for important topics; making it clear who owns decisions and why (and making sure you aren’t always the person making the decision); bringing others along; ensuring that employees have time to execute; and being open to admitting mistakes and learning from them.

Helping employees achieve career goals will certainly help you build better relationships. It’s both necessary and possible to teach managers to get to know their employees at a human level.

Google introduced Career Conversations in which managers explored three areas with their reports. They:

  • listened to the employee’s life story to learn what motivates them at work;
  • asked employees about their dreams of the future to learn what skills they need to develop;
  • developed a career action plan together, focussing on the employee’s motivations and life goals, rather than a narrow and uninspiring focus on the next promotion.

When managers held Career Conversations with their teams it resonated with employees more than anything else Google tried that year. Employees reported that they felt their manager cared and that they were really being listened to.

It takes time and patience to build up relationships by listening – but the rewards are significant. 


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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2020 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.

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