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Listening Organizations

Listening is something that people take for granted.  While many people feel it is a passive activity, nothing could be further from reality.  Listening is a dynamic activity requiring close attention, understanding of the communication process and active participation. The following outlines why organizations should create a culture that highlights this skill and cultivates its benefits. 


L = Legendary Status. Individuals who hone their listening skills have the potential to be excellent team members, exceptional candidates for leadership and superb providers of service. Organizations that embrace a listening culture will become the employer of choice in today’s tight labor market, increase their employee retention rate, improve the quality of their product and develop a reputation for legendary customer service.


I = Information.  A listening organization is smarter. Individuals need direction, departments need goals, customers need information, decision makers need intelligence, and leaders need ideas. To make good decisions, take advantage of diversity, tap into creativity and increase the competence of each individual, information must pass through all levels of the organization and this can be accomplished through active listening.


S = Satisfaction.   Employee satisfaction leads to loyalty and retention.  Customer satisfaction results in revenue.  There is no doubt that one is related to the other.  An individual who gets the undivided attention of another feels more important and more human.  A good listener provides a forum for the ego and food for the soul.


T = Time.  There is an old saying that there is always time to do it over, but never time to do it right. Time is wasted when an organization suffers through misunderstandings because someone wasn’t listening; corrects work not done properly because someone got only half the message or deals with frustrations and potential disasters due to a lack of attention.  If people are encouraged to attend carefully to instructions, suggestions, training, ideas and requests, fewer mistakes will be made and increased productivity will be the result.  Time will be saved and aggravation will be reduced.


E = Empowerment.  To empower people within the organization, the leadership must listen to the voices of the members of the team.  Mechanisms should be in place to uncover the gem of an idea, the ideal solution, the inspired recommendation or the occasional concern.  An organization that listens will be better able to cultivate the abilities of each individual, nurture the creativity of the collective mind and inspire loyalty by integrating the ideas and suggestions of its people.  People will share their thoughts and stretch their talents to the limits of their aptitude when given the opportunity to do so. People will talk when there is a sincere person with an open mind willing to listen. 


N = Negotiation.  Negotiation takes place whenever there is an exchange of needs.  The best sales people, negotiators, mediators, and diplomats all listen first before they place their own agenda on the table.  Legendary leaders all have a bit of the sales person, negotiator, mediator and diplomat in them.  Listen first, then develop a strategy around what you hear.  This will develop the relationship and get you to an agreement faster than making demands or issuing opinions based on your own perception.


U = Understanding.  Communication has not occurred unless there is a “meeting of the minds.”  This requires that a connection be made.  Listening is the primary mode of communication used in building relationships, collecting data and solving problems.  If this mode is faulty or not fully developed, then understanding breaks down and communication does not occur. 


P = Problem Solving.  Have you ever been through Psychotherapy?  There is a great deal involved in solving a person’s problems and bringing him/her back to good mental health, but the predominant technique used is listening.  The therapist allows the person to talk about their problems and facilitates the individual’s discovery of workable solutions. Individuals, including customers, may not be in need of intense therapy, but there may be moments where they are acting in a dysfunctional way and could use a non-judgmental ear. Solve problems and reduce frustrations by listening rather than launching into your own preferred solutions.


What does all this spell?  Why, it spells L.I.S.T.E.N. U.P.  That is what an organization and all the individuals within that organization must do to create a legend.  It takes discipline and training.  Most importantly it takes commitment.  Make it a priority.


"By providing each of us with an enormous need to be heard, our egos overwhelm any desire to hear." Kevin J. Murphy.  Women are traditionally better listeners.  While the stereotype may be that woman chatter, this is not true in organizational life.  Women should cultivate this strength.  Men should emulate it.  While good listeners may appear as though they are not contributing, they are in a very distinctive way leading an organization to legendary status.