The Gift of Listening addressed the importance of quieting your mind and giving your full attention to the person speaking, listening to the words, and also hearing what is not said. Listening involves more than just letting the voice hit your ears. It is providing a safe place for someone to truly share.
Lack of communication is one of the most common challenges I hear in my work with teams. While there might be complaints about being included on too many emails or attending too many meetings, this issue of lack of communication still exists.
Workplace communications are difficult for many. We might think that the workplace is all about business yet it is one of the most emotionally charged when it comes to communication. Did the boss’s question indicate his disappointment in my project? Was I excluded from the meeting for a reason? Do I dare share the issues I see with the strategy that the owner is so in love with? How do I give feedback to an employee who does great work but isn’t seen as a team player?
Improving listening skills company-wide is the first step. We might think that stepping up our communication means talking more. But if no one is listening then what is the point? The conversation would only become louder and louder as each person attempts to ensure they are heard.
Being a great listener is behavior you can model as a leader. Do this with your managers and let the impact trickle down. Create an environment where each individual has the opportunity to be heard. Practice what was spelled out in the Gift of Listening. No memo or company announcement is needed to let the office know we now practice listening. Just do it and listen for what happens.
When your direct reports know they are heard, they will provide the same to their team members, and so on down the line. Not everyone will pick up on this. You will still have those less self-aware who will not pick up on the cues and will continue talking. You’ll either work around them or they will move on, by their own volition or by direction.
Culture reflects leadership. In the lack of leadership, individual cultures will take over. Build your culture by taking the first step to listen.