How Well Do YOU Listen?
FACT: Better listeners are better at influencing others…
…according to a recent Columbia Business School research study, Listening and Organizational Influence. The study suggests that, “How well people listen is positively associated with their tendencies to influence others.”
Business people need to listen at least as much as they talk!
Listening is one of the most important, yet underdeveloped skills, required for success in our personal and professional lives. However, most of us take listening for granted and aren’t very good at it. Lee Iacocca, father of the Ford Mustang, former CEO of Ford and Chrysler said more than forty years ago that, “Business people need to listen at least as much as they talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.” Iacocca also said, “I only wish that I could find a school that teaches people how to listen.” Sadly, most schools don’t offer classes in listening skills.
Building a knowledge base that generates fresh insights!
As a person improves their listening skills, they can move on to what’s called, power listening. Power Listening is the art of probing and challenging the information gathered from others to improve its quality and quantity—and is the key to building a knowledge base that generates fresh insights. The problem again is that most people don’t know how to do this! I learned this as a young middle-manager at AT&T.
AT&T concedes managers don’t know how to listen!
Early in my career, working for AT&T, I was given an assignment. Try to determine why staff and lower level managers aren’t improving the company’s service standards. Through some intense testing, we determined that upper & lower levels of management had very poor listening skills.
So, on behalf of AT&T, I hired world-renowned “listening” expert, Dr. Lyman Styles to consult with us. Dr. Styles was Chairman of the Communication Department at University of Minnesota. Together we created and implemented a program to dramatically increase the listening skills of our upper management. We began a one-day per-month class, over three months, lasting over a year. Additionally, attendance was mandatory. As a result of these listening skill building classes, managers really began to “listen” to one-another. A rash of new ideas were introduced for company improvement. By carefully “listening” to one another, they were able to collaborate and approach critical measurements in new ways.
From cost center to profit center
In most companies, customer service departments exist to “put out fires.” They act “reactively.” This is costly and doesn’t cultivate happy customers. When company culture promotes good listening skills, employees act pro-actively which improves the “customer’s experience.” For more than a hundred years businesses treated “customer service” a “cost center.” Today, businesses having managers with good listening skills, emphasize “the customers experience;” turning “it” into a “profit center.”
A lot has been written about this important subject. If you want to improve YOUR listening skills or those of your employees, hire a good business coach, consultant or listening expert. Take advantage of what’s out there and, become a better listener!
Have a question? Ask Alan…
If you have a small business question email it to Alan: email@example.com. Questions may be combined and answered in an upcoming column of “Ask Alan!”
Alan Adler is an Executive Coach, Business Consultant & Speaker. He’s worked for Westinghouse Broadcasting, as a producer/director and with senior management at AT&T, as a corporate spokesperson. Additionally, Alan has been an entrepreneur, creating and growing his own business, Alan Adler & Associates. As a result, he knows management, media and marketing. Alan specializes in helping entrepreneurs through mid-sized businesses, improve profitability. He lives in Huntersville, NC with his wife Mindy. They have two grown children, two adorable grandchildren, and a rescue dog named Bentley.