Don't Just Hear -- Listen
You have conversations with your employees all day, but are you really listening? Here's a clue: If you're thinking ahead to the next meeting or planning tonight's dinner during the conversation, you're not paying attention.
Being an effective communicator means listening as well as talking. Sounds easy, but listening actually takes some practice.
Each time you have a conversation, pretend there's going to be a quiz at the end of it. Try to keep a mental checklist of all the important points the other person makes. When the conversation is over, force yourself to recall at least three important things the person said. Get in the habit of doing this until listening becomes second nature.
One helpful way to improve your listening skills is to repeat what the other person has said. For example, you can say something like, "I understand that you're not happy with the current health insurance policy, Frank. I'm going to look into it." Or you can say, "I want to make sure I've understood you correctly, Tim. You're telling me that you want to extend the health insurance benefits to spouses. Is that right?" This technique offers the added bonus of showing your employees that you're interested in what they have to say.