Last spring I read the legendary book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This book currently ranks pretty high (#18) on my Book Rankings list...and in all honesty I'm afraid that ranking might be too low. Although this book was initially published in 1936 (!!), there are some universal truths about building relationships with others that have stood the test of time.
One of my favorite lines from this book reads as follows: "Exclusive attention to the person who is speaking to you is important. Nothing else is so flattering as that. Even the most violent critic will soften and be subdued in the presence of a patient, sympathetic listener."
One of my goals for this year has been to increase the number of 1:1 meetings with our staff members. I have been using these meetings to implement many of the ideas talked about in this book. In the past I have noticed that leaders I worked for often would appear to be pre-occupied and distracted when we would meet together. As a result of these bad experiences, I have promised myself when I am in similar situations with employees under my supervision I need to put everything else aside (yes - this means the computer and the phone!) and give those employees the attention they deserve.
While at times I may still not be the most patient listener (my wife could attest to this), I can honestly say this "habit of mind" is something I consciously try to improve upon when I am meeting with our employees.