If you could wave a magic wand and suddenly make every employee in your organization proficient in one behavior what would that be? Critical thinking? Customer-orientation? Sales?
No matter which behavior I consider, I’m hard pressed to come up with one that would be more impactful with just a bit more listening.
Listening transforms relationships.
Listening makes customers feel valued.
Listening gets to root cause.
Listening attracts business.
Yet, in most organizations I work with, people talk a heck more than they listen. Most of us can’t claim that we consistently listen well.
So how do you set out to build a culture of effective listening? Start with these 7 steps.
1. Tell the Truth
Nothing will make people tune out faster than smelling BS. If you want people to truly listen, be sure they can believe what you say. A culture of real listening can only happen when people can count on one another for candor. Encourage transparency and truth telling, starting at the very top.
2. Be Interesting
Sounds basic, right? If you want people to listen, speak in an interesting way. Tell meaningful stories Ditch the 35 page PowerPoint deck and explain why your project really matters.
3. Show Up Like an Anthropologist
Anthropologists don’t go to a scene with something to prove, they show up subtly and listen carefully. They ask great questions and make meaning from the responses. Imagine the possibilities if more executives approached their field visits with the attitude of an anthropologist. Or if more sales reps worked to truly listen to what customers were saying about their lifestyles and values.
4. Be Interested
To encourage deeper listening, be a great listener. Approach conversations with empathy and compassion. Let your words, body language and actions show that you’re very interested in who they are and what they’re saying.
5. Reward Transparency
If you freak out every time you get bad news, all you’ll get is Diaper Genie feedback, where the poop is disguised in so much packaging you can’t even smell it. Thank people for bringing you the truth. Surround yourself with those who will challenge your ideas. Promote those willing to speak up.
6. Encourage Field Trips
One of the best ways to build a listening culture is to have encourage cross-departmental visits. Give your teams permission to visit their counterparts upstream or downstream in the process. Let them share their challenges, pressures and successes.
7. Get Social
Social media provides amazing opportunities to listen to customers. A good social care strategy listen’s beyond the # and the @. Social platforms can be great for internal listening as well. One of my clients recently implemented Yammer and is delighted by the informal conversations forming and how they can trend what’s most important on people’s minds.