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Listen to the Kid, and Listen!

September 24, 2009

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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!



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.

Missing in action.  Yes, the missing part refers to the fact I haven‘t written a blog entry in a few weeks; I apologize. The action in the phrase describes how busy I have been ensuring that the wedding plans that have been in process for the past six month crystallized into the vision we all had for a most perfect wedding.  I could have started with “I have been on vacation” but vacation may not be the most accurate word to define my disappearance from the blogosphere.

Our daughter was married on August 9 and it was a magical moment in our lives.  We were our own wedding planners and using my decades of project management skills, I was able to keep everyone and everything on track.  With a 16 tab Excel spreadsheet by the end of the six months, we tracked our budget, guests, flights, vendors, and just about anything else you can imagine.

As always, I read a lot before diving into this new and very personal project of planning our daughter’s wedding. But as I reflect back on the past six months I think the one thing that isn’t discussed enough is the need for open, and honest communication during the wedding planning process; openness between the bride and groom, the couple and their families (if they are involved in the planning), and the planners with the vendors. How could this be overlooked or under emphasized in all the bridal magazines, and online sites?  Goodness knows, the importance of open and honest communications in the couple’s relationship before and after the marriage is discussed constantly.

We had no bridezilla in our house and we are thankful.  Any bumps we had along the way were planted by our miscommunications, but an honest conversation quickly brought us back to the same page and with a positive result. Being honest with each other, discussing the situation, and moving on quickly made our wedding planning a very beautiful thing for mother and daughter to share.

 But what if you weren’t a good communicator?  Here’s a possible scenario to consider.

You have a budget, but you don’t tell your vendors your price point.  They come up with something that is magnificent, but out of your price range.  You now have a vision of a wedding you can’t afford.  This frustrates you, even depresses you because it won’t satisfy your dream, and you come away feeling sad or inadequate during what should be one of the happiest times in your life.

Can you make the leap from this notion to your business world?  Imagine this…The current economy is hurting your company.  You don’t tell your employees or ask them for assistance in cutting costs.  They continue to operate in an unrealistic work environment, and eventually get caught in a cost cutting mode which might include their job or their co-workers’ job. Morale sinks quickly, productivity is squashed along with morale and with productivity depressed, your revenue-stream is hurt even more.

It is very true; many people spend more waking hours at work than they do with their family.  Are you honest in your communications with your family?  Are you honest in your communications with your workforce?

Your employees know you business.  Be smart and access their intellectual capital and the love they have for your company.  Be honest with them; if business isn’t where it should be, ask them to help you identify opportunities for improvement.  You may be surprised at the recommendations you receive.

We planned a great wedding; you can have a great workplace, an engaged workforce.  Just be sure you include good communications, and two-way dialogue opportunities.  Just like ensuring a good marriage through good communications, you may have to work on it a bit. But believe me it is worth the effort!

Do you have a personal communications lesson that would translate to a work environment?  Please let us know!

Eileen Weisman is a communication strategist, mother, and mother-in-law!  Her company, The W Group helps clients create messages that are visible, heard, and understood!

thumbnail logoNo I am not getting kinky with you and if that is what you expect, visit someone else’s blog. This is about our new Internet; Web 2.0. The new web is full of passion, passionate people who are ready, willing and anxious to share their opinions, photos, videos, and responses to just about anything.

I attended a seminar the other day facilitated by Ed Schipul, and he talked about this new passion. I was impressed enough to dedicate this blog to how that passion can translate into helping you as a consumer, a business person, an employee, or just as a means to stay connected.

Let’s start with the “stay connected” because that applies to everyone! Whether you are on Facebook, blogging, creating YouTube videos, your goal is to find others who enjoy the same topic, right? You are looking for feedback/comments to see the reaction to your entry. Maybe you are reacting to a news article and you are sharing it. Why? Because you have some passion around the topic and that caused you to share it on the web. If you are not the content owner of the original post, you are probably searching for something, maybe a product review, maybe a discussion on a current event, or maybe you just need to stay in touch. All of those scenarios solicit a desire–a desire to learn, a desire to react, a desire to connect.

Even mainstream media (I am not sure I can call it that anymore) such as USA Today runs articles regularly about social media. “Businesses are beefing up direct communications with customers through social media tools. Communication technology has helped companies quickly, and inexpensively responds to customer complaints, answer questions, and tailor products and services.“1  But let’s be perfectly clear, they are not replacing customer service , they are using social media to enhance their customer service and be able to respond quickly to negative experiences in the hope to turn it around quickly and positively.

So if you are writing on the web, or you tweet, or you blog, I want you to be passionate about your topic; be certain your comments are relevant to your audience, always remember to share your resources (thanks, Ed Schipul), and try to be helpful. And if you are using social media for internal communications be certain your employees can find motivation in your words, and it supports your internal branding messages. Again, if you are passionate it will resonate with the reader.

And I guess I must be passionate about sharing what I learn because that’s what motivates me to write these blogs. Since one of the many virtues I continue to preach is honesty I’ll come clean. I like sharing ideas I believe in passionately, and if it can help one person with their business, or one person with how to make a decision, then I have been successful.

What are you passionate about and are you sharing that passion?

Eileen Weisman is a communication strategist at The W Group, who helps her clients create messages that are visible, heard, and understood! You can improve your bottom line by improving your communications.


1 USA Today, June 25, 2009 by Jon Swartz

If you do, you should take the approach that the survey is only your first step of assessing attitudes, behaviors and engagement levels.  By administering the survey you have created an expectation for those who participated in the survey that you are going to do something with their opinions and comments.  They are wondering if you are truly going to listen to them, look for trends, and announce your strategy for addressing these opportunities for improvement.

What you do with the information from an opinion survey reveals what kind of leader you are. 

I am sorry if that sounds like I am challenging you, but if there is no follow-through after you ask the questions, you have just probably created a major morale minimizer within your organization!

Unfulfilled expectations reduce satisfaction, and reduced satisfaction can result in reduced business.  With employees that means lower employee engagement.  With your board and donors it could mean less underwriting, less contributions, and less engagement as well.

And that brings us to the importance of communicating within your organization.  I have said it before, and I will say it again—tell it like it is—honesty translates into respect! Use the survey as your opportunity to show commitment to the mission of your company and your organization.  Use the survey to address what has been confirmed as important issues.  Use the survey to celebrate the positive and use the survey to challenge everyone to engage in suggesting strategies or tactics for resolving these important issues.  You have empowered participants to share their ideas; now empower them to help make your organization the benchmark of its peers!

Thinking surveys cost too much money to administer is a myth. These surveys can be done for a minimal cost.  Getting started can be done quite easily and The W Group would be pleased to assist you in launching a survey, including results analysis, and suggested strategies for incorporating your results into action!

One final comment: consider surveying twice a year.  Why? Because sometimes you get people on a bad day, sometimes people can’t participate for some reason, and by surveying twice a year you address the first two reasons, and you now have two data points to begin using metrics to confirm if your action plan is taking affect.

Remember, just asking people to complete a survey sends a good message. Creating an action plan to illustrate you actually listened to what they said is “priceless.”