leadership listening benefits - effective leaders gain respect and focus and productivity through listening skills
leadership listening benefits - effective leaders gain respect and focus and productivity through listening skills
leadership listening benefits - effective leaders gain respect and focus and productivity through listening skills

Practical Benefits of Better Listening for Leaders and Teams


Besides the deep implications of listening for leadership explored in decades of leadership models, listening has a number of direct, practical benefits for executives, managers, and team members.

Experienced management trainer Madelyn Burley-Allen identifies the following immediate tangible benefits from listening in the work place:

A Bond of Respect. Genuine listening generates respect, rapport and trust between talker and listener. In particular, employees like, and respond better to, supervisors who they think are listening to them.

Productivity. Productivity will be higher and problems solved more rapidly if people working to solve problems are encouraged to explain problems and start working though solutions out loud before "advice-giving" begins

Cooler Heads. Focusing on listening helps both the talker and the listener stay cool--and helps them cool down--when dealing with a crisis or discussing an emotionally charged topic.

Confidence. A supervisor who listens well will tend to have better self-esteem and self-image because they will get along better with others.

Accuracy. Better listening leads to better recollection of important facts and issues later on, resulting in fewer miscommunications and fewer mistakes. Thus, attention to good listening technique is even more important when complex issues are involved.

 

Parts of this section were inspired by the book Madelyn Burley-Allen, Listening, The Forgotten Skill. A Self-Teaching Guide (Fireside (Simon and Schuster), 1995 (Second Edition)) (>Amazon.com), with interpretation and analysis by Bruce Wilson.

Other motivational benefits of listening in the work place:

Innovative solutions to problems and new production methods are incubated by listening. When a leader tells someone exactly how to do something, or tells them to stop thinking and just keep doing it the way it's always been done, the organization misses out on any improvements that someone might discover by applying their fresh eyes and unique background to solving the problem.

From a different perspective, by not listening to the people who have to get the job done a leader not only chills innovation but also de-motivates by reducing feelings of responsibility, control, and importance.

Finally, it bears noting that Six Sigma, the latest system for total quality management, explicitly recognizes not only the value of the employee viewpoint, but the value to the employee of being listened to. Listening makes employees feel better about themselves and the problems they are working on seem more within their control.

Aren't some of us just too darn effective already to rely much on listening? Even General George S. Patton, the flamboyantly egocentric but highly effective U.S. Army tank commander during World War II, once said:

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."

Cultivating the Work Environment. At IDEO, the company's leaders seek out the creative voice of team members and encourage team members to listen to one another in order to build an office environment that promotes cooperative teamwork and inspired problem-solving.
- IDEO uses empathic listening to discover ways to make the work environment comfortable and attractive in order to recruit and retain top people.
- IDEO treats the work environment as one of its product development projects. They brainstorm, prototype, and take feedback from team members to zero in on what works.
- This approach to work environment encourages a flow of creativity and problem solving rather than focusing team members on barriers and obstacles in their path, such as "who's getting a window office."

Encourage Prototyping. Like brainstorming, prototyping is a way to solicit input from team members and develop empathy with customers. Prototyping is the process of creating and experiencing multiple early versions of your products of services, perhaps with alternative features, before your "final" version is ready for sale.

For example, when facing a one month deadline, try to come up with 5 different flavors of primitive outlines or prototypes after the first week and get feedback from team members about the prototypes to see what directions look most promising. Then prepare a final version. Don't begin by preparing a final version of "best guess" for completion and delivery on day 30, then get feedback after its too late.

Prototyping early and often breaks log jams, builds momentum, and allows course changes before smacking straight into obstacles.


This section was written by Bruce Wilson, an executive coach, trainer, and facilitator who has helped individual business people and organizations across the U.S. to improve their leadership, customer relationships, and teamwork. For more information about his work, or to get in touch with him, visit WilsonStrategies.com.


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