HAS this ever happened to you? You go to speak to your boss, or a colleague, a friend or even someone in your family and you feel they are not really listening.

How does that make you feel? Not very good, I suspect.

When I bring this issue up in a team motivation seminar, some managers start to feel a little bit uncomfortable.

If you want to motivate and have a good relationship with the people in your team, your customers, colleagues, friends and family, then you need to be a good listener.

You need to look and sound like you are listening. When you are face to face with someone, you must look interested, nod your head and keep good eye contact. Over the phone you need to make the occasional "uh-huh, I see".

I have seen managers, when faced with a problem from a team member, start to do something else, like work on the computer. I have also heard managers say, "It's okay, I can do two things at once, I can listen to you and work on the computer."

Maybe you can, but the message your team member gets is: "My problem isn't that important, my manager just isn't interested."

When you are spending time with people, you need to give them your full attention. You need to look them in the eye, concentrate on them and make them feel that what they say is important and deserves your attention.

As well as looking interested in your team member's or your customer's problem, it is a good idea to write it down. I have sometimes fallen into the trap of thinking: "I'll remember that when I get back to the office and I'll check on it."

However, one person I was with said: "You won't do anything about what I've said, Alan, because you won't remember it." From that point on, I made sure I wrote things down.

It is also a good idea to paraphrase, to repeat what the person has said to ensure your understanding and let him know you have been listening to him.

It may seem like a simple thing, but it is very important to use names. You could say in response to a problem from a team member: "I'll speak to the accounts department about that."

It is far better to say: "I'll speak to the accounts department about that, Susan. Thank you for bringing it to my attention." That's a much better way for a motivating manager to act.

Uttering a person's name is one of the warmest sounds he hears. It says that you recognise him as an individual. However, don't overdo it, as it may come across as being patronising.

So here is some food for thought. Many people believe that to be a good motivator, you need to be a good speaker. In fact, you need to be a great listener.