Canadian Managers Magazine / Fall 2023 - Issue 4, Vol. 47 / Article 5

The Benefits & Tools of the Listening Manager

In its simplest terms, leadership is about vision and destination, whilst management is about operations and direction. Although this distinction is clear, the marketplace is rapidly changing so that managers are essentially the leaders of the people they manage, even if there is an organisational leader positioned above the manager. The workplace in the information age is made up of self-motivated individuals who are highly intelligible. The concern of this short essay is to unleash the potential of our staff to enable them to effectively contribute to the organisation. Therefore, the listening aptitude of the manager is identified as a key tool in opening the door to the individual and collective potential of the people they manage.

By Charlotte Canales, C.Mgr. | Chartered Managers Canada



Interestingly, the role of the manager in the workplace of the information age is not to provide information, such as operating manuals or its equivalent, compared to the workplace of the industrial age. Instead, the manager’s role is to connect the staff to the larger organisation and help the staff make their connection to the operational manual in light of the dynamic goals of the organisation. When the staff can informationally understand the operation manual, which a qualified and self-motivated staff will be able to do independently, listening becomes the manager’s key tool in helping the staff 'own' the operation manual and bring it to life in daily service delivery.

The manager's ability to listen is crucial in getting to know the staff, at least professionally, to help the staff bring their best to the workplace in service of the broader community. Any operating manual has some association with the history of the staff and, here, the manager's listening ear and heart can help the staff process the organisation's operating manual so that the staff can 'own' it. In the information age, if a manager desires to work with self-motivated staff, then he or she must be willing to invest the time and effort to listen.

The listening proposed in this article is not similar to psychotherapy or guidance counseling, where the manager deals with the personal and innermost problems of the staff, although it can be part of it if the staff chooses to bring these matters to the manager’s attention. Instead, the listening proposed here is listening to educate, to form, and to grow the staff as a contributing member of the organisation.

True listening allows the manager to identify developmental gaps in the staff within the context of the dynamically evolving organisation. Highly intelligible staff can informationally understand the operational manual, but the developmental gaps are in nuanced or subtle areas that no Google or a chatGPT can identify or provide answers to. The manager is unlike the professor of previous academic training of the staff that provides an academic mark. Instead, the manager is an investigator of the continuous holistic development of the staff and identifies the specific gap to help staff self-learning while giving them a vision of when the development gap is addressed. An academic professor provides a mark that quantifies the distance from point A to point B performance. A listening manager aids the staff in identifying that there is a distance from point A to point B performance, enables the staff to self-learn the necessary requirement to move from point A to point B, and highlights how point B is what is necessary from the staff to effectively contribute to the organisation.    

The tool of the listening manager is true openness towards the organisation, the market, and the staff. In the context of staff development mentioned above, true openness recognises that the answer(s) to the unleashing of potential of one staff or of the entire department does not lie within the manager. As managers, if we want to unleash the potential of one staff or one department, then we must approach as true learners. It is indeed demanding to be required to manage that which we, as managers, ultimately do not have any real control over, which is another entity that is not ourselves. And yet, this is the tremendous adventure awaiting every manager, learning the staff and helping the staff open their door so that they unleash their own potential and become leaders of their lives and true sharers and eventually self-leading agents, of the vision of their organisations.

About the Author:

Charlotte Canales Chung, C.Mgr. is a Consulting Manager at Big 4 accounting firm. She has more than a decade of supervisory and managerial experience from multiple jurisdictions (Philippines, Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Canada). She trains, guides and coaches her team to their full potential. Outside of work, she is active in the non-profit sector and is completing her Ph.D. in Theology with Asia Graduate School of Theology AGST Alliance in Malaysia.

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