One of the greatest challenges for any leader is to help an employee change a behavior. This behavior modification needs to be accomplished without harming the relationship with or self esteem of the employee. Active listening is a widely used technique when coaching someone through a behavior change.
Active listening is the ability to tune into another person, process what is being said and then respond appropriately. When done sincerely and skillfully the person being coached feels understood. This becomes a foundation for increased openness, decreased defensiveness, and an environment where that person feels more comfortable exploring his or her own feelings and expressing ideas. This technique encourages employees to think for themselves, diagnose their own problems and work towards developing their own solutions.
When using this tool the leader restates to the employee his or her understanding of the message. This restatement is offered without judgment, advice, or opinion—it is just to confirm understanding of the message. Again, this decreases defensiveness and creates an atmosphere of trust so that the employee can fully express his or her message.