Are you listening? This is what happens to your business when you actively listen

There are copious amounts of content and noise around having ‘good’ communication skills and how important it is for business owners and leaders to be good communicators. Listening tends to be the key communication skill. It’s where it all starts. But what does that mean?

Are you listening?

According to Wikipedia ‘Listening is giving attention to a sound. When listening, a person hears what others are saying and tries to understand what it means.’ found that we absorb as little as 17-25% of what we listen to. That is so little.  Why? When you listen to someone, they feel valued. The effects of people feeling valued are multiple and can include an increase in loyalty, a deeper connection with a healthy rapport and an increase of self-awareness most beneficially around individual strengths and weaknesses. All these things are key when conversing with colleagues, clients, suppliers and all other stakeholders. A business is more likely to prosper when these conditions are in play. Professor Avraham N. (Avi) Kluger has found in his research that good listers make better leaders who perform and are more likely to run successful teams and businesses.

However, most of us believe we are good listers yet listen until we can talk again.

What are listening skills? 

One of the core competencies of mentoring is proven listening skills. We must show that not only are we hearing what our mentees are saying, but we can also tell when they are not sharing or holding something back. This then feeds our questioning skills, however, that is for another article!

There are three basic levels of listening. More if you delve deeper into the topic. For the sake of simplicity let’s look at these.

  1. Passive – unfocused, for example listening to the radio while you work or someone else’s conversation that you are not included in.
  2. Active – you are engaged in a two-way conversation with someone for a reason.
  3. Global – little can break your concentration on your conversation.

Julie Starr highlights in The Mentoring Manual that effective listening is a combination of attention, what we are focused on and intention, what we are going to do with the information we hear. The balance of these two will depend on the conversation and who it is with, for example an interview vs a strategic discussion.

How do I improve my listening skills? 

Outlined below are a few approaches to improve your listening skills. This must be purposeful practice. In the words of Mathew Syed in his book ‘Bounce,’ nothing will improve unless you work at it. We are not born with talent. Effective listeners should constantly be working at it, especially in these fast-paced times laced with assistive tech and AI. Julie Starr reiterates this when she says, ‘Effective listening is like a muscle you develop over time.’

Here’s how you can improve your listening skills: 

  1. Be present, patient and curious – turn up and leave the rest of your day at the door or click of the join the meeting. Ask questions to attain the details. The more informed we are, the more relaxed we will be at initiating the next steps followed by allocating and executing the right actions. 
  2. Suspend judgment – the minute we start the judging process on somebody or what they are saying, we begin undermining who we are listening to. Our biases kick into play. Flex that ego according to who you are listening to.
  3. Reiterate – summarise and repeat back what you have heard and what has been agreed. This can feel uncomfortable initially, however this practice saves multiple misunderstandings and increases productivity alongside providing reassurance.
  4. Act on what you have heard – do what you have agreed to. Plus, keep reflecting on the conversation and follow up on anything you think may have been missed. Be aware.

Two interesting stats and facts to ponder

  1. Did you know humans cannot read and listen simultaneously? Do one or the other. 
  2. 306 billion emails are sent every day. Half of them are misinterpreted in tone or message, resulting in frustration and anger.

Should there be any doubt on how a message will be received, remember we can still pick up the phone, converse, listen and get it right. If you have not heard someone as you feel you should, do not hesitate to ask them to say it one more time.

Kerrie Dorman
Kerrie Dorman

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