Active Listening – A short cut to Improve Your Workplace Environment

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What is active listening in the workplace?


What is the difference between managers who get great results and those who don’t?

The first knows how to listen.


Look around you.

In a work environment, situations are constantly occurring that provide you with feedback on what is happening around you.

Hundreds of emails pass through your inbox every day.

You meet with dozens of people a day (team supervisors, coworkers, medical residents, interns, temps, etc).

You have lunch with people, or you could just share a few words in passing on your way to get your cup of coffee.



The active listening radar at work

All of these events and the employees you interact with, send you signals about their mood about what works well and what doesn’t.

Do you have a good enough radar to pick up these signals?

And most importantly, do all your leaders in your business have this?

So why is active listening important in the workplace you might ask.

Most managers and other leaders know how to speak well.

They are trained to express their ideas (although a fair share keep their communication style to just giving orders hehe), but perhaps not so much to actively listen in the workplace.

Just because your leaders are good communicators does not mean they know how to listen.

And THIS is what is really important in a conversation.



How to improve active listening skills with all 5 senses

Active listening is a workable skill that every leader should master. In any professional field.

Listening isn’t just hearing, it involves paying attention and acting on what you’re hearing.

This can greatly benefit your business.

How do you become an active listener? 



1. Avoid distractions

When you’re talking to a team member, make sure that they feel like you’re truly dedicating your attention to THEM.

Don’t divert to check for maintenance errors on the machinery while you’re chatting with someone on the shop floor.

If there are too many distractions, go to a less noisy location if possible.

Close your computer screen, put your phone on silent.

Don’t let anything interrupt them as they’re talking with you. Focus!



2. Keep an open mind

Try to avoid internal distractions such as prejudice or double entendres.

Approach the conversation with a positive and open attitude.

This is particularly true if you’re talking with someone on your team that you know is pretty negative about business. Or about life in general :)

At Celpax we constantly hear of nice examples of active listening in the workplace.

One manager told us how during one of his Gemba walks he discovered that one of his colleagues was a big fan of guitars.

That turned out to be a common interest and paved the way for a greater understanding at work.



3. Just listen.

Just listen. With the 5 senses.

Stop thinking about what you’re going to answer. Stop thinking about what you’re going to do later.

Don’t judge, don’t interrupt.

Asking questions is a great way to open up the conversation and get the communication going.

How is your day going, is a simple and effective start.

For those using daily mood data in their business, the question can be related to recent findings, or a simple “has something made you press green lately?”.

And embrace the silence. Sometimes the person in front of you needs a moment to gather their thoughts.

It might feel like an eternity if you’re nervous or feel awkward, but don’t make the mistake of talking to soon to break the silence.

Interpret what you are hearing to capture the main ideas.



4. What does your body language communicate?

Many of us don’t think about our body language while we’re actively listening.

Make your gestures mimic your thinking.

Nod your head, make small gestures that indicate you are understanding, or sounds that reinforce your listening attitude (“mhm”, “uh huh”, etc).

Eye contact is key.

If it freaks you out, a common workaround is to look at the nose of the person you’re talking with. They won’t be able to tell the difference and will feel that they have your attention as you’re listening.

Also, pay attention to the small gestures you do without thinking. How does it make you feel when someone is watching their clock?



5. Repeat in your own words

This is a simple but highly effective way to make sure you nail active listening in the workplace.

Make sure your interpretation of what is being said is correct.

Repeat back what your interlocutor said, but in your own words.

Highlight what is key for you in that conversation, ask if you understood correctly. “So if I understand you correctly you mean that…”

Using this technique also means you will better remember the content of your conversation.

This is particularly effective if you promised a follow-up or some kind of action.


Using these 5 key points, it is only in this moment that you are preparing to respond.



The benefits of knowing how to actively listen

Active listening is one of the most important skills to have when it comes to team management.


Because it has direct effects for all employees in a conversation:

  • It is the only way to create a trusting climate in the conversation, where those involved feel close and free to express their opinion honestly.
  • It’s the right attitude to have an open mind and that allows you to learn from the other person.


The benefits don’t just apply to a manager’s professional life or career.

It can also help you use your improved communication skills in your private life :)


If you want to know more about active listening in the workplace, don’t miss our article on using dialogue to be a better leader!



Measure the mood!

What’s the impact of your active listening in the workplace? Validate progress.

Smiley feedback terminal Celpax

Lean Manufacturing  Metrics for change management




Rebecca Lundin, CelpaxHej! I’m Rebecca, co-founder at Celpax. We use simple tech tools to create better work environments. And build a better society while at it! Got more tips related to active listening in the workplace? We’re on Twitter or follow us on Linkedin.



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