Listen, people, will you?

Improving business and people performance

New clients often ask me what tools, models, methods I can recommend that will improve their business and people performance. And it’s certainly true that there are tools that are useful to help diagnose, analyse and engage.  But there’s one thing that every organisation has already at its disposal. No need for consultants, or fancy tools.  It’s free, it’s easy and you can start it now, no accreditation or training required. What is this magical thing you ask?

A few weeks ago I blogged about Nancy Kline’s Time to Think.  Nancy’s key proposition is that we have the answers within us, if only we had the right environment to be heard.. That is, someone to listen, and ask the right questions.

It’s an art, this whole listening thing, as most of the time we might hear the first few words (let’s be generous and even say sentences), and then we’re off – either judging what the person has to say, or formulating our own responses.  We’re up in our own heads rather than present with the person that we’re meant to be listening to.  Listening! (different, note, to hearing!)

So Nancy talks about the amazing results that an individual, team or organisation can achieve; should the take the time to listen – how drastic problems can be solved, new ideas generated.. Even, she suggests, ‘just’ the productivity associated with meetings achieving their stated purpose.

The Speed of Trust

Stephen Covey follows on with this theme in his book ‘The Speed of Trust’.  Stephen quotes Peter Drucker who in talking about key attributes and practices of successful executives says “.. this is one is so important I am going to elevate it to a rule: Listen first, speak last..”  Covey goes on “.. If companies don’t do market research to determine the needs and preferences of consumers before they produce products, they don’t make money.  Sometimes they have to invest tremendous time and money in order to redesign and relaunch the product. Sometimes they end up out of business..”  Leaders, politicians; both could do with a lesson from Mr Covey. Carbon Tax anyone?

Lululemon Athletica is a gorgeous company that promotes a holistic approach to life and wellbeing. They posted a video today, which talked about coaching to help someone achieve their goals (read: achieve results!).  The most important thing: the ability to listen and ask questions. Watch the Lululemon video here.

Finally, this article from People Management in the UK talking about why employee engagement schemes often don’t work. Many valid points in the article; then scroll down and the comment from Bob: “.. We need to be careful here….sounds like a re-emergence of good old common sense. Good managers have always known it doesn’t have to be complicated to be competent and have been talking and, more importantly, listening to their staff for years. Unfortunately, except in the lucky few organisations, eventually the communication reaches a strata in the organisation where engagement schemes get confused with engagement and all is once again lost..

So, that’s it.. The magical tool. The one that can save money, identify solutions to complex problems, engage and motivate staff, enable achievement of goals.. So simple.

So your challenge for today is to pick someone – a colleague, a family member, a customer: and concentrate just on listening what they have to say rather than what you want to say in response to what they started to say.  Then see what comes from it.

Let me know how it goes!

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