Listen to the Kid, and Listen!

September 24, 2009

W small only

At what age do we begin to learn from our children?  My friend was babysitting her grandson while she was trying to work from home.  The phone rang, and she took the call.  The very smart three-year old tugged at her and said, “You need to be with me, not on the phone.” grandma

It reminded me of the saying “Be here now.”  Have you heard that one? My own daughter has reminded me of the importance of having a meaningful conversation, a dialogue where each party is truly listening, tuned in, and not focusing on what the response should be, and what they want to say.  How well do you listen?  Are you ready with your response as soon as you hear a few phrases from the speaker?

Listening skills are critical in any relationship, especially in business where using both your ears can help you learn what the mood of the workplace is currently.  The expression, Management by Walking Around (MBWA) was the cornerstone of Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett’s management style as they grew their company, HP.  Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard created a management style that formed the basis of HP‘s famously open corporate culture and influenced scores of other companies in the way they created trust in their organizations. MBWA is marked by personal involvement, good listening skills and the recognition that “everyone in an organization wants to do a good job.”[1]Ultimately, MBWA morphed into Management by Objective (MBO), which gives employees the flexibility to create business objectives for themselves that work towards the company’s goals.  MBO were another sign of trust in the HP workplace. 

Trust in the workplace translates into more productivity.  If you are in marketing, or perhaps a department head, before you begin any campaign, go back to the basics.  Start by collecting data; you need a baseline of opinions and attitudes. With your new knowledge you can assess the situation and create a more powerful program, a program with punch, and pizzazz that will resonate with your employees.  If you have carefully listened to your constituents, your campaign will achieve its goals and behaviors should change.

Some Quick Listening Tips

  • Be an active listener.  Be tuned in to the speaker, show interest
    • Maintain eye contact
    • Nod your head periodically
    • Concentrate on what the speaker is saying and not saying (“listening” to body language is also important)
  • Create a safe listening environment
    • Have an open door policy
    • Practice MBWA
    • Have an email address that you respond to personally and in a timely manner
    • Have town hall meetings with question cards—if time does not permit answering all at the meeting keep your promise to respond in the company newsletter, or the company intranet

And remember the old saying, “We were given two ears and one mouth because listening is twice as hard as speaking.”

Tell us about the good or bad listening environment where you work!


[1] http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/abouthp/histnfacts/timeline/hist_40s.html

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Eileen Weisman is a communication strategist, a good listener, a recycling expert, a dog lover, and a mother of the bride.  Contact The W Group to discuss opportunities for improving the listening environment within your company or organization.

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