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  • Writer's pictureAbdi Bedel

The Power Of Active Listening | The Lovable Product Manager

Updated: Jan 22

Welcome to 'The Loveable Product Manager Series'! Our mission is to help you create products that customers truly love and that generate business value. From customer research to product strategy, design thinking, and project management, we'll provide practical tips, advice, and insights to help 'product people' like you succeed in the world of product management.

 

The Power Of Active Listening


As a product manager, you're responsible for driving the success of your product and ensuring that it meets the needs of your users and stakeholders. They usually wear many hats: strategist, collaborator, problem-solver, and maybe even occasional therapist.


To do these roles, they need to be able to communicate effectively and collaborate closely with your development team and other key parties. But what if I told you that one of the most important skills you can bring to the table as a product manager is simply listening? That's right: active listening is a critical component of effective communication and collaboration, and it's especially important for product managers.

listening ear

Active listening is the secret ingredient to product manager success.

In this article, we'll explore what active listening is, why it's so important for product manager, and how you can improve your active listening skills to drive success for your product. So, let's dive in and discover the power of active listening for product managers.



So, What is Active Listening?

You may be thinking, "I know how to listen, what's the big deal?" But there's a big difference between passive hearing and active listening. Active listening means fully engaging with the person who is speaking, paying attention to both their words and nonverbal cues, and demonstrating that you understand what they are saying. It's about being present in the moment and making the other person feel heard and valued.


Did you know that active listening can actually improve your productivity and job performance? A study by the International Journal of Listening found that employees who engaged in active listening reported higher levels of job satisfaction, motivation, and productivity. And when it comes to teamwork, active listening has been shown to improve collaboration, trust, and overall team performance.


"You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time." ~ M. Scott Peck

As a product manager, active listening is especially important because you need to be able to understand the needs and perspectives of many different stakeholders, from users to developers to executives. By actively listening, you can build better relationships, gather valuable insights, and ultimately drive better outcomes for your product.


So, what are the key components of active listening? They include:


Paying Attention

This means putting aside distractions and focusing your full attention on the person speaking. Try to maintain eye contact and avoid multitasking while the-power-of-active-listening-the-loveable-product-manager-seriesyou're listening.


Asking Questions

To ensure that you fully understand what the speaker is saying, ask clarifying questions and show curiosity. This demonstrates that you're engaged and interested in what they have to say.


Reflecting Back

After the speaker has finished speaking, reflect back what you've heard to confirm that you've understood correctly. This can also help to show that you're actively listening and taking their perspective into consideration.


For example, let's say you're conducting user research interviews to gather feedback on a new product feature. By actively listening to users, you can gain a deeper understanding of their needs and pain points. You might ask follow-up questions to clarify their feedback, and reflect back what you've heard to ensure that you're on the same page. This can ultimately help you to build a product that better meets user needs and drives greater satisfaction.


So, what does active listening look like in practice? It involves paying attention, asking questions, and reflecting back what you've heard to confirm understanding. This allows you to build better relationships, gather valuable insights, and ultimately drive better outcomes for your product.



The Power of Active Listening for Product Managers

As a product manager, you wear many hats and interact with a wide range of stakeholders, from customers to developers to executives. Active listening can help you to be more successful in your role in a number of ways:


Build Better Relationships

Active listening can help you to build trust and rapport with stakeholders. By showing that you're interested in their ideas and concerns, you can strengthen relationships and build a sense of partnership. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, "relationship management" is one of the key skills that sets top-performing product managers apart.


Gather Valuable Insights

Active listening allows you to gain a deeper understanding of stakeholder needs and perspectives. This can help you to make more informed decisions and build better products that meet customer needs.


Foster Collaboration

Active listening can improve collaboration and teamwork by ensuring that everyone feels heard and valued. This can lead to more effective problem-solving and decision-making. According to a study by Deloitte, "collaboration" is one of the top skills that product managers need to succeed in today's business environment. Active listening is a key component of effective collaboration, as it helps to ensure that everyone's perspectives are taken into account.


Enhance Creativity

Active listening can also enhance creativity by allowing for more open and diverse perspectives. When everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas, you can generate more innovative solutions. In his book "Crucial Conversations", author Joseph Grenny emphasises the importance of active listening in fostering creativity and innovation. By actively listening to diverse perspectives, product managers can identify new opportunities and generate creative solutions.


Improve Decision-making

Finally, active listening can help you to make better decisions by gathering all relevant information and perspectives. This can lead to more effective problem-solving and better outcomes for your product. Research by the International Journal of Listening has found that active listening can improve decision-making, as it allows for a more thorough understanding of complex issues.


In the next section, we'll provide some practical tips for improving your active listening skills as a product managers.

Strategies for Improving Active Listening

As we've discussed in the previous sections, active listening is a critical skill for product managers to master. It can help build better relationships with stakeholders, gather valuable insights, foster collaboration, enhance creativity, and improve decision-making.

"We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say." ~ Richard Branson

As billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson once said, "We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say." And the numbers back him up. According to a study by the International Listening Association, we spend an average of 45% of our time listening, yet we only retain about 25% of what we hear. This highlights the importance of active listening and why it's critical for product managers to improve their listening skills.


Becoming an active listener is not always easy. It requires practice, patience, and a willingness to improve. These strategies include being fully present, demonstrating interest, asking questions, paraphrasing, practicing empathy, and taking notes. Let's dive in and explore each of these strategies in more detail.

Be Present

To actively listen, it's important to be fully present in the conversation. Eliminate any distractions and give the speaker your full attention.


Demonstrate Interest

Showing the speaker that you're interested in what they have to say can encourage them to share more. Nod your head, maintain eye contact, and use facial expressions to convey your engagement. As the famous philosopher Voltaire once said, "Listening is not merely hearing, it is seeing how someone feels." By demonstrating interest, you can build rapport and establish a stronger connection with the speaker.

Fun Fact: Research has shown that maintaining eye contact during a conversation can increase trust and rapport between the speaker and listener.

Ask Questions

Open-ended questions can help you gather more information and clarify the speaker's perspective. Avoid interrupting and instead ask questions that encourage the speaker to elaborate. By asking questions, you can ensure that you fully understand the speaker's perspective and needs.


Paraphrase

Restating the speaker's message in your own words can help ensure that you've understood them correctly and show that you're actively engaged in the conversation. By paraphrasing, you can demonstrate that you've not only heard what the speaker said, but also understood how they feel about it.


Practice Empathy

Understanding and acknowledging the speaker's emotions and perspective can build trust and rapport. This can help the speaker feel heard and understood. As the famous author Harper Lee once wrote in To Kill a Mockingbird, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." By practicing empathy, you can not only better understand the speaker's needs, but also build trust and rapport.


Take Notes

Taking notes can help you remember key points and follow up on action items. However, don't become too focused on note-taking and ensure that you remain engaged in the conversation. By taking notes, you can turn ideas into action and ensure that you don't forget important details.


By implementing these strategies, you can become a more effective listener and product manager.


In conclusion, active listening is a critical skill for anyone. By implementing these strategies, you can build better relationships, gather valuable insights, foster collaboration, enhance creativity, and improve decision-making. Ultimately, this can lead to greater success for your product and a better experience for your stakeholders.

 
"I never learned anything while I was talking." ~ Phil Jackson

Active listening is not just a buzzword, it's a crucial skill for product managers to hone.

By improving your listening skills, you can not only better understand your stakeholders' needs and perspectives, but also foster stronger relationships, collaboration, and creativity. As legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson once said, "I never learned anything while I was talking." So, if you want to learn and improve as a product manager, start by actively listening to your stakeholders.


So, if you want to develop better products and provide a better experience for your customers, start actively listening today. Remember, listening is not just hearing the words, it's understanding the meaning behind them.






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Abdi Bedel

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