Another challenge is when people aren't good at putting what they mean into words, or don't use the correct words to describe what they want to say. It can be a challenge to listen and even harder to understand. It's not a bad idea to say: "Now let me see if I understand your thought; do you mean this, that, and the other?"
Be aware that body language can also indicate how much attention you are giving to a conversation. Looking around the room, drumming your fingers and glancing at paperwork are all indications of lack of interest. On the other hand, good eye contact, positive facial expressions and perhaps a nod of the head indicate that you are giving consideration to the information being communicated.
Because all of us were not born good listeners it can require some practice. Here's a test you can try. Give one of your employees an assignment and then have them repeat the instructions back to you. Their reply can be helpful in discerning how well you are communicating. It can also help evaluate how well your workers are listening.
It's possible that some of you rcould be thinking, "I'm running a shop, not a country club!" If so, think about this. Do you want a shop where employees can produce without you constantly reminding them how to do their jobs? Do you want to avoid the many problems that can arise when people aren't paying attention? If so, then you need to be a good communicator and listener.
The philosopher Epictetus once said, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." Why not give it a try?
About the author:
Jon Olson is the production and operations manager for Sterling Surfaces in Sterling, Mass. He has been a solid surface fabricator since 1982 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.