Effective Listening For a Competitive Advantage
Knowledge and innovation are crucial for organizations to maintain sustainability and a competitive edge. Aside from communication technologies, organizations need employees with strong listening skills. Listening skills are an important part of organizational communication that can help retain employees and add value to the community.
“Effective listeners remember that words have no meaning – people have meaning” - Larry Barker
Most of your success, depends on how well you connect with others: listening, speaking, writing and reading.
Organizations with effective communication have 1) higher productivity 2) lower customer service complaints 3) decreased absences and 4) decreased turnover. Companies can increase their bottom line, sustainability and community impact by having employees with effective listening skills at all levels of the organization.
Listening Builds Trust
- Regardless of your role in an organization, by listening you are connecting with that client, co-worker or fellow manager and getting past cultural barriers. From the client’s point of view, they need to trust your organization before they support you. From the worker’s view, they have the need to achieve and contribute to an organization. Trust amongst co-workers lead to vision and value sharing, which enhances workplace culture.
Listening Stimulates Innovation
- By listening carefully to the content of customer complaints, or the underserved voices of a particular community, you can find ways to develop or strengthen programs, such as community outreach. Employees with effective listening skills will learn new information that can increase innovation, leading to an increase in the organization’s bottom line.
Listening Establishes Partnerships
- Effective listening skills help to establish positive working relationships with clients, bosses, as well as colleagues. Workplace relationships can be looked at as a partnership. An employee should partner with his/her manager to carry out the organization’s vision. Partnerships can also be created with outside organizations through effective listening.
“The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.” — Woodrow Wilson
The reality is: listening and understanding individuals throughout an organization can be difficult because effective organizational communication is not simple.
Barriers to Listening
Undervaluing the other party
- Bias, stereotyping, and assuming that you have heard it all points to one message “this person is not important”. This can really damage work relationships and customer views about the organization.
- Thinking about other tasks such as the people you need to email or what you will eat for dinner should be avoided. Such distractions take attention away from the speaker.
Speaker versus Message
- Another common pitfall to effective listening is focusing on the speaker instead of the message. By focusing on the speaker instead of the message, the door opens for bias, judgment and favoritism.
So how can effective listening skills be improved?
How to Implement
Give Your Undivided Attention
- Most people believe they can multi-tasks when listening to another individual, but this has proven to be false. Giving your undivided attention includes, but is not limited to making eye contact and observing body language.
Use Empowering Reflection Techniques
- Asking empowering questions, asking for clarity and repeating what the individual says demonstrate reflective listening skills.
Find Ways To Connect
- Communication from the top down builds trust and employee engagement. This can be implemented by finding ways to connect and engage with lower-waged employees, even those who are often undervalued.
“The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say. It’s terribly important for everyone to get involved. Our best ideas come from clerks and stockboys.” – Sam Walton
As you go about your day, remember that listening skills are not only critical inside the workplace when dealing with co-workers or customers, but also outside of the workplace when networking and building personal relationships. As a manager or team leader, a positive attitude will set the tone for how employees or co-workers treat one another and clients. Implementing these techniques will empower others and make them feel respected, which can in turn, increase your organization’s sustainability.