Are You Listening?

During college I had a professor, well-known for his unique one-liners, who would routinely say “hear and listen” during class. I used to chuckle at this because I thought it was somewhat redundant. However, if you think about that phrase, it serves as a great reminder that “hearing” and “listening” are two entirely different things. You can audibly hear someone but not actually listen to anything they are saying. When leaders do this to their people, it can be very demoralizing to employees and detrimental to the organization.

In my previous post, I talked about the need for leaders to be aware of what is going on inside their organization. The best way to improve awareness is to ask questions and listen. When leaders take the time to interact with their people and hear what they have to say, it can be a big boost to employee morale. People want to know that their leader cares enough to listen to them.

Conversely, leaders who do not take the time to ask questions and objectively listen with an open mind will create a work environment where employees do not contribute new ideas or offer constructive feedback. In other words, an unhealthy organization.

Sam Walton said, “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 stock boys.” Those are powerful words that speak to the essence of Sam’s leadership style.

If you want to improve the relationship you have with your team and enhance their overall morale, take time to listen to what they have to say. Be sure to do so with an open mind and without passing judgment. If you are not tapping into the knowledge and ideas of your people, you are missing a great opportunity to improve the performance and health of your organization.

Quotes on Listening:

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and attended to my answer.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Effective questioning brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom.” – Chip Bell

“I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.” – Lee Iacocca

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