There's a paradox, isn't there, in the fact that we talk and write a lot about the importance of good listening. It's an enviable skill to be able to listen effectively to others, without interrupting; to allow others the space to talk and the respect of empathetically taking in and properly considering what is being said to you.
It's an attribute that is highlighted by great leaders as key to success whatever the environment. To that end, at an Inbound Marketing conference in the UK a while back, it was the resounding message from all the keynote speakers there. HubSpot CEO, Brian Halligan, for instance, spoke of how truly listening to your audience, ensuring you understand their needs, preferences and challenges will allow you to better create marketing experiences that they will love.
Similarly, Carrie Longton - co-founder of Mumsnet, advocated listening to your community. She demonstrated how this pioneering example of social business consciously seeks out the views of its parent community on all issues, using them to directly shape the company's policies, choice of business partners and its strategic direction. Now that’s good listening.
And, in his excellent article on Forbes.com, Glen Llopis offers leaders and managers 6 ways that effective listening [to employees] can make them do a better job. He suggests that those who give considered attention to their staff are able to create relationships founded on the confidence and transparency that engenders significant loyalty.
As Llopis underlines "employees want to be led by those who genuinely care about who they are and what they represent to the team and organization at-large."
The point is echoed in by Rene Boer in his post "Why great bosses don't tell you what to do"on the EOS Worldwide blog. Boer commends to managers the value of asking questions; he suggests that by listening to a team member give answers - probing them for solutions and ideas - a good leader will encourage ownership of issues and accountability for outcomes.
Given that "85% of what we know we have learned through listening", paying attention to the views of others and encouraging dialogue is mutually beneficial to both sides, and to the business.
Surely, if your employees, your customers, your community feel truly heard, then the rewards will come through improved performance, loyalty and trust.
As a leader, it’s difficult to really know what your employees are thinking about, what’s troubling them or how to help them get out of a performance slump –unless you take the time listen to them. Listening goes well beyond being quiet and giving someone your full attention. It requires you to be aware of body language, facial expressions, mood, and natural behavioral tendencies. Listening should be a full-time job when you consider the uncertainty embedded in the workplace and the on-going changes taking place. Compassionate leaders listen and don’t interrupt the flow of the dialogue. They embrace two-way communication and are aware that with every interruption comes disengagement. Employees respect those leaders that listen, because they know how difficult listening can be.