Before you read on, let me ask you to do something, not for me, but rather for you. List the skills that you rate highest in terms of business success. I’m sure strategy is on there, as is persuasiveness, sales and planning. But, let me suggest another. Listening is key to our development as individuals– as babies and children, we learn through observation and by listening. And yet, as get older listening is the one skill that many of us seem to use less and less.
Even when we are trying to listen, we often fail to do so for the right reasons. Instead, we wait until the other person finishes so that we can say what is on our mind. This isn’t really listening. Paying attention to others will not only help you understand their point of view, but it also the key to developing relationships that are based on trust. All companies claim to value open communication and conversation, but few listen to their customers, their suppliers and partners as well as they should do.
To many of us, becoming a good listener doesn’t seem so hard to do. After all, how difficult can it be? As a business owner, it helps to keep a couple of basic points in mind when looking to foster a listening culture that promotes open communications in any type of organization.
1. Make listening part of the company culture. If it is clear to your team from the beginning of their time with the company that listening is welcomed, mutual, and expected, they will behave accordingly. As the business owner, you must go first and lead by example through listening to your staff at all times and having an open door policy. Your employees’ willingness to listen, to be open and vulnerable will be a direct reflection of your own willingness to do the same.
Related: Five Ways To Improve Company Culture
2. Respect, honor, and reward listening. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by all the enthusiastic sharing of ideas, insights, and concerns. Support this through positive reinforcement, and don’t reproach your employees, no matter how critical.
3. Be receptive to what you hear. Remember, listening can leave one vulnerable especially when the feedback is negative. Effective communication requires vulnerability on both sides, which is scary for many of us. Put aside the fear and remember that the rewards far outweigh the perceived potential danger in listening rather than talking, particularly when it comes to improving what we do and how we do things.
4. Practice what you preach. Your team can’t be expected to behave in a way that you as a manager don’t adhere to. So, trust your employees as you expect them to trust you and listen to them as you expect them to listen to you.
Ensure that goals, values, and concerns are out in the open, even if the news is not always good. Stay engaged, keep your ears open and make sure that open communications works for you, your team and your organization’s success.