How to listen your way to a better business
Managers want employees to know what they need to do to be productive and help move the business forward. But employees often feel like "worker bees," and can become frustrated and even disgruntled by the expectation that they should blindly follow rules without applying their own unique knowledge to a particular project. As Wiliam Buist, fouder of xTEN Club (www.xtenclub.com) explains, "the sad part of this all too common situation is that nobody wants it. For the most part the "boss" wants to incorporate fresh ideas into the business and employees want to approach their careers with enthusiasm and feel proud of the accomplishments they have made for themselves and the company."
Whilst "you can't please all of the people all of the time." that’s not an excuse to ignore the issue. It's better to find common ground, compromise included, and the way to find that is by learning to listen actively.In the dark days of hierarchical managerial power structures, many business leaders had been programmed to deliver their message and direct employees to follow. For the employee the choice was obedience or unemployment. In today’s knowledge economy ignoring people’s intellect simply won’t work. There’s always more that could be done, and more to do than a working day allows for, even when we extend it voluntarily. In an effort to get more done, the business world keeps asking people to do several things at once.
Listening to employees, or even business colleagues, at any level needs to be done with purpose. It isn't enough to interpret the words that come out of the other person's mouth. Other factors give us clues, for example body language can improve our picture of what their needs are. We only spot them when we focus on them. Employers who give their employees undivided attentive presence will be seen as more involved, compassionate, caring and understanding. Employees will feel like a key part of the organisation and experience a higher level of satisfaction and productivity; they are involved.
What is accomplished through effective listening?
1. Increased Trust
Employees that feel they can approach their employers about business related matters are more likely to let their bosses in on other issues that may affect their work. This could be something like being concerned about a child who is struggling in school, or it could be an issue such as another employee stealing from the company. In either case, the trust gained makes a more positive and productive experience and allows an employer and employee to help one another succeed.
2. Reduced Conflict
Not having a say is bound to create a certain level of animosity. This might manifest in the form of actual arguments, or it could turn to destructive behaviour such as stealing information, or presenting the company in a bad light on social media or external conversations. An employee may also take a negative opinion over their supervisor's head. Turnover rates are higher in environments where employees are dissatisfied, which creates higher recruitment and training costs, a drain on existing employees and even more communication needs.
3. Motivation and a Positive Reputation
Employees who feel they are understood at work, and that their ideas are being truly considered, are more creative overall and are often more productive. They also carry a positive attitude which their co-workers often find contagious. Many will recommend the company to people they know when job openings occur reducing the need for outside recruitment.
In conclusion; stop, focus on the issue in hand, and only the issue at hand. Don't let other matters disturb the conversation. Give your undivided attention and be present. Then you, your employees and your bottom line will benefit.