Listen. Most people in professional life know that listening skills are important. However, listening is a practice and a discipline. It can be lost amongst the urgencies and exigencies of the day. In meditation, the practice of listening is coupled with the benefits of a heightened state of acuity. By listening and not thinking, you are more apt to hear (or see) things that you might otherwise have missed. A more receptive state.
The acute awareness that comes of listening may provide a useful analogy for the benefits of practicing these skills at work. It challenges the fallacy that we are more efficient while multitasking.* Can you listen and work at the same time? We think we do. (And maybe we do.) But, hey, maybe not so well.
When we stop listening in business, we minimize our chance to use additional information. If the task you’ve assigned is urgent, the success of the task itself may be in jeopardy. In the desire to say everything you have to say, you may miss the critical information you really need to hear. And this is a competitive loss. Or, failing to listen results in loss of morale of your colleagues. It may result in a loss of respect, also undesirable. Think of a time when you were dispirited, having left a meeting when you felt you had not been heard. Alternatively, recall the satisfaction of having your opinion sought after.
An interview with Alan Treffler, founder and CEO of Pegasystems, in the New York Times (“Corner Office,” August 7, 2011) examines listening as a function of leadership and management style. Says Trefler:
Listening better was something that required some conscious thought and discipline. I also had to make sure that my tendency to have very, very strong opinions was not drowning out the opinions of others . . . once you tell everybody that it’s their job to have an informed opinion . . . then you’re sharing some of that responsibility. And you obviously need to be able to listen if you’re going to actually hear those opinions.
The bottom line on listening according to Trefler is that you will miss out on the added capacity of your organization if you are not listening to what they have to say.
|Not listening?||The consequence.|
|Message delivery||You will not know if your assignment is fully understood or may be completed more effectively.|
|Decision-making||You miss constructive feedback; unaware of what more you need to know, your decision-making is compromised.|
|What you said/what they think||What really happened? Read between the lines. What lines? Just because someone understands what you said, does not necessarily mean they agree. This may compromise what you need; a job well done.|
|Non-receptive mindset||Eyes wide shut. You eliminate the possibility of learning what others know—about your business or competitive intelligence, other’s business, or the marketplace.|
|Non-verbal cues||You miss the non-verbal cues whose power to inform needs no language.|
|Distracted by appearances||You judge the messenger, instead of the message. Another instance of missing out on potentially valuable information.|
*Although we are practiced at multitasking, the apparent efficiencies are either deceiving, or just plain wrong. Some researchers maintain that a company may lose an average of 2.1 hours/day in productivity due to employee multitasking, not to mention the additional stress our multitasking imposes upon us.