Shut Up And Take The Money To The Bank!

It is human nature to want to control any conversation and be heard, so we spend most of our time formulating our own thoughts into words.  The result is we don’t listen or hear what others have to say.  This is especially true for owners and managers, because we feel the added responsibility of making our business successful.  Let’s face it, we are the only ones that can make the business work, right – wait - not so fast!

Listening is a bit like intelligence – most everyone thinks they’re above average, even though that’s not really true.  The reality is to be successful in business or life for that matter, listening is a skill we need to be great at.  A study at George Washington University showed that listening can influence up to 40% of a leader’s job performance.  Ironically “the word listen contains the same letters as the word silent” – Alfred Brendel.

Effective listening is something that can absolutely be learned and mastered.  Even if you find attentive listening difficult or boring you can still do it.  The payback is the wealth of knowledge you can gain from your most valuable asset – your staff - not to mention your customers,  colleagues, consultants, creditors and the list goes on.

As I have often said “Knowledge is Power” and the best way to achieve it is through great listening skills.  Here are some strategies that will help you get there:

Focus:  The biggest mistake we can make is being so focused on what we are going to say next, we fail to hear what’s being said.  Now focusing is not as easy as it sounds but it is imperative that you clear you mind and listen to what your staff are telling you.

Put Away Your Phone:  This is a no brainer but few of us do it in this day and age.  I think we can all agree how frustrating and rude it is to be sitting in a fine restaurant and the person at the next table is constantly answering their cell phone and talking throughout your meal.  It is the same in business.  Your staff deserve to be listened to without the distraction of your phone, so put it away!

Ask Good Questions:  One of the best ways to show people that you are listening intently is by asking good questions.  Not only are you showing them respect, but you are giving them an opportunity to clarify their point.  This gives people a feeling of importance and value and who knows, you just might learn something.

Practice Reflective Listening:  Another way to add to your listening skills is by paraphrasing what your people have just communicated.  It shows that you were listening and understood the point they were trying to make.  Not only will this give the person a chance to clarify their point, but the satisfaction they got a chance to freely communicate their concern or suggestion.

Use Positive Body Language:  Good body language and tone of voice will attract people to you like bees to honey.  Using enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning towards the person shows respect and caring for what they have to say.

Don’t Pass Judgment:  A good listener will be open minded, approachable and interesting to others.  If you have already formulated an opinion your people with shut down.  They need to know you are not passing judgement and truly understand what they are saying.

Keep Your Mouth Shut:  This no doubt is the most important of all of the strategies.  You can’t listen if you are doing all the talking so put a zipper on it.

A successful business starts with good communication and that is driven through good listening skills.  Whether it is your customers, staff or outside influences, you need to be a good listener to reap the benefits of the information that is freely offered to you. 

If you open your mind and listen to your people you will be the beneficiary of great ideas, better systems, loyalty and most important a staff that is engaged in your success – then you can take the money to the bankl!

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