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Understand the value of good listening

Tuesday 11th December 2018

Communication is essential for every business. In an age when knowledge and the ability to respond swiftly to changing data and information is central to the success of firms, ensuring staff know what is going on in their sector, among their customer bases and also internally within a firm is crucial.

When it comes to the latter, staff will also appreciate being in the loop. Nothing is more likely to arouse suspicion or resentment than being kept in the dark about something important, especially if it means that a big announcement is suddenly sprung on people who might find it represents a large and difficult change to cope with. This is particularly true if an adjustment has to be carried out swiftly.

However, even if managers are good at telling staff what is going on and everything they need to know, it is vital to remember that communication is not a monologue. Listening is just as important.

The first reason for this is because it makes practical business sense. Staff working every day to serve customers, manage the expectations of clients and solve problems will know from experience what things are working and what are not. They may also come up with a range of ideas to help enhance processes and tackle difficulties.

By being open to fresh thinking and suggestions, managers can encourage staff to be proactive and use their initiative. This can not only help the firm through the production of good ideas, but will also help their career development. If – instead of just having to do what they are told and get on with the job – workers are encouraged to show their capacity for problem solving and challenging the status quo, it can demonstrate their potential to hold higher positions in the firm.

As well as encouraging people to speak out for professional reasons, it is also important to listen to individuals on a more personal level. When having one-to-one meetings, give staff a chance to explain how they feel about their work, where things are going well but also any areas they are having difficulties with. These may range from a work issue to a problem with a colleague and, left unresolved, could lead to them feeling discontented.

That can feed into declines in performance or even their departure. After all, what could prompt someone to want to leave more than the feeling that they are not being listened to?

By contrast, allowing staff to have a voice and feel they are being listened to is a great way of creating loyalty. Indeed, when good ideas are acted upon it can help people working at different levels of the business feel a sense of ownership that would not otherwise exist.

In addition, staff who are listened to will also feel a greater sense of trust. This will be on both the professional and personal level. The latter will be particularly important when the time arises that a staff member has a particularly personal issue, such as a family bereavement or mental health problems.

Ultimately, therefore, it is important to ensure that your communication strategies are always two-way in nature. By listening to staff as much as they talk to them, managers can go a long way towards helping their staff develop and grow both in and with the company.

 

Image courtesy of iStock SIPhotography

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