“I feel like I’m not getting through to them.”
“They just don’t listen to me”
I hear these phrases often… from clients and prospects alike.
And I know… it’s frustrating to try to teach something when the others don’t catch on and don’t follow the suggestions. Especially as the boss, that could easily make us feel disrespected or distrusted.
But before pinning the blame on the employees, consider that the problem could be coming from you.
Here is what I mean… When others don’t listen, we somehow didn’t make the message relevant enough for them.
It might have sounded interesting, logical, and compelling to you but bear in mind, we’re not all the same and what sounds good to you may not sound good to others. To avoid falling into this trap, it’s important to hone your communication skills.
Here are 4 ways to make your communication more personable so that your team members are more open ears about what you have to say.
1) Let the Employee Describe the Problem
Avoid asking your employee a question then immediately launching into an explanation or list of problems. This inhibits the most critical part of a teaching moment: We don’t let the employee give a full answer.
For example, you see a team member struggle with a task and you ask, “Is there something about the process you don’t understand?”
But rather than wait until the employee answers, you keep going: “Because it is a little tricky if you don’t do it very often, and it has to be done in a very specific way – here let me show you.”
At that very moment, you just disempowered the employee. Instead, leave it at one question, then let the employee tell you what’s wrong or not understood (in his or her own words).
This makes the conversation a lot more interactive, meaningful and empowering. Plus, offering your own fix doesn’t teach the employee anything, other than you know what you’re doing and they don’t.
2) Be Mindful How You Point Out Errors
Never assume the employee knows she or he is doing something wrong. It could be something the employee doesn’t realize or isn’t aware of.
So, avoid interrupting the employee while he’s in the process of doing something wrong unless it’s an absolute emergency. This could come across as though you’re spying, and it’s demeaning.
For example: “Um, OK that’s wrong. You’re not supposed to start cataloging stat sheets before they get a final review.”
If it is something that can be easily fixed, bring it to the employee’s attention as soon as possible – but resist pouncing on the mistake out of the blue.
Otherwise, the employee might wonder, “Does she peer over my shoulder looking for me to make a mistake all the time?!”
Plus, they might have noticed themselves a few minutes later that what they’re doing is incorrect which would have been a significantly more meaningful and memorable learning experience than being told about a mistake by someone else.
3) Avoid The Monologue
If you’re explaining something for more than 2-3 minutes – especially if you feel running-on – stop and take a pause.
Your team member will likely have a hard time remembering your monologue. Instead, ask questions such as “can you quickly recap what you heard?” or “with this in mind, how do you see this impact the task at hand?”
Don’t just talk at your employees.
Trying to drill too much information at once can overwhelm them, which is counterproductive. Even a small pause helps keep the person from becoming confused or disinterested – or both.
4) Use Teaching Stories – But Make Them Brief
Short teaching stories can help an employee better understand what you’re teaching and how it impacts their work. It makes the learning come to life.
Think of experiences you had in the past or a particular situation in which the particular skill you’re teaching was relevant. Stick to short examples limited to a few minutes.
Try to intersperse teaching examples with questions, such as, “Can you relate to that?”, or “Have you had that kind of experience?”
This helps the other person stay engaged, and it helps them connect the dots between your story and their situation.
Teaching employees new skills and correcting mistakes is not easy, especially if you feel your message doesn’t catch.
These 4 tips are an easy start to make your teaching moments more personable and interactive. If you want to learn more about how I work with new managers and leaders to help them bring out the best in others, then let’s talk.