How ignorant are you? Tuned in or tuned out to other people?
Nowadays we’re all so tuned in, with information coming at us at speed both at work and home, and many of us plugged in with ear-phones a lot of the time. So we must all be really great listeners – right?
But how much are we really tuned in to each other and does it matter?
Lots of studies into lack of engagement at work cite ‘not being listened to by managers or leaders’ as a key complaint of workers across business. Gallup research shows that 70% of all US employees are not engaged at work.
Most of what we learn is by listening. Ram Charan, co-author of Boards that Lead, found that one in four corporate leaders has a listening deficit, which in his view ”can paralyse cross-unit collaboration, sink careers, and if it’s the CEO with the deficit, derail the company.”
Gallup in their regular employee engagement research find that ”meaningful exchanges between managers and employees boost the bottom line.”
Listening shows you care. Sounds a bit soft for business?
We all talk about the importance of employee engagement and business spends a lot of time & money measuring it – but it simply boils down to an employee feeling that they matter, can contribute and are valued by the business they work for. Don’t we all want to feel that we’ve been listened to?
Gallup has identified caring as a key element of great managing, leading to engaged employees – ”engaged workers are capable of exceptional performance, … managers who successfully engage employees ….are vital to their organizations’ success.’’
From our own research we know that 80% of our clients have a personal value around kindness.
”People who said leaders treated them with respect were 55% more engaged.” Christine Porath US Professor in a study of civility at work.
It’s often said that if a leader doesn’t listen their team stops talking & contributing.
According to Forbes, GE, renowned for building leaders, have placed “humble listening” among the top four desirable characteristics in its leaders.
So listening in business does matter – but are we any good at it?
We spend a lot of our time listening, according to research out of all the time we spend communicating we spend the most time listening – 15% more time than speaking, but we only retain about half of what we’ve been told.
From research there are some typical barriers to great listening that affect us all:
The average person talks at a rate of about 125 – 175 words per minute, while we can listen at a rate of up to 450 words per minute (Carver, Johnson, & Friedman, 1970). So we have lots of spare brain capacity while listening to do other things such as: becoming distracted, daydreaming or thinking about something else.
We may lack interest in the speaker’s subject and a really common one – we’re too busy thinking about what we want to say next or how we can solve this issue or give our view whilst a person is talking to us.
We all process information through our own emotional filters – this can stop us listening, say if we disagree or feel we have a better idea, or don’t like the speaker.
If no-one is listening there is no communication.
The good news is – we can all become better listeners, listen actively to really hear what the other person is saying.
Here are our top tips on how to do it:
Make the time
It’s up to you to want to change and engage with others in a more meaningful way – and making more time for listening is a simple change.
Stop what you are doing, stop looking at your phone, screen and take your hands off your keyboard. Pay attention to the person who is talking to you, look at them – make eye contact.. Stop your mind wandering by repeating the words being said in your head.
Show you are listening by using nonverbal language such as a nod or smile. Provide feedback such as reflecting back what you have heard or ask questions.
Monitor how you are feeling and therefore what you could be communicating in a non-verbal way ie ‘emotional leakage’ be conscious of your body language and facial expression.
Ask questions for understanding.
Be conscious of your own filters, don’t interrupt or assume you understand – let the person finish what they are saying then answer with respect.
Practise this everyday to move your listening from passive to active and start communicating.