Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Good leaders know how, when to listen

Facilitative listening is one of the most important skills that good leaders demonstrate. It shows respect and encourages communication from others.
Listening involves a set of nonverbal and verbal behaviors. Nonverbally, people feel listened to when others make respectful eye contact. Often, when we slightly lean toward the other person, have appropriate, positive facial expressions, and nod our heads, people feel that we are listening to them.
Verbally, listening behaviors include questions that clarify the statements made, comments that capture the thoughts of the other person, or comments that summarize the thoughts of the other person, or comments that summarize the thoughts of the other person.
Questions that are more open than closed-ended are also seen as enhancing dialogue. Open-ended questions tend to start with the words what, how, or when. Closed-ended questions begin with is, do, or can. Open-ended questions give the respondent more options as to how to answer the question. Closed-ended questions usually elicit shorter "yes" or "no" responses. When you combine verbal and nonverbal listening behaviors, the other person knows you are paying attention. It is virtually impossible to fake listening when you employ both verbal and nonverbal listening behaviors.
The purpose of facilitative listening behavior is to understand the message of the other person and begin a true problem-solving dialogue on the issue being discussed. All of these verbal and nonverbal behaviors need to be practiced so as to fit the natural behaviors of the person demonstrating them or the result will be reduced, rather than increased, communication. A huge number of opportunities are lost in all organizations due to poor or nonexistent listening skills.
When I hold sessions that I call The Respectful Communicator, I often ask my participants what the costs of poor listening for their organizations are. Trainees have estimated organizational losses in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars each year.
Areas where organizations realized losses due to poor listening include:
Poor listening during hiring.
Inadequate preparation for tasks.
Lack of instruction.
Poor communication with customers.
Missed business opportunities.
Damage to equipment.
Equipment downtime.
Lost or damaged tools.
Employee turnover.
Operational errors.
Ordering errors.
Paperwork errors.
Work repetition.
Missed production dates.
A poor safety record.
Of course, this could go on and on. How many of these organization costs could be avoided with improved listening in your organization?
Frequently, weeks after my sessions on listening, people report that they and others who were in the session have improved their listening skills. Improving listening skills is certainly possible in all organizations. If leaders want their employees to listen effectively, the leaders themselves must role model the behavior.
If you, as the leader, are not willing to work to listen better, why would others believer that better listening behaviors are worth the effort?

by Dr. R. Glenn Ray

Source: The Marietta Times

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