The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Friday, November 4, 2011

THE ART OF LISTENING





In order to accomplish great things we must listen and learn so we can build our knowledge and experience base to initiate responsible actions. Good listening, however, involves more than waiting patiently to hear your owner's voice (as this now famous RCA dog once did) - it involves asking open-ended questions (as opposed to giving close-ended solutions), encouraging others to expand on a partially developed thought (rather than adding to it yourself), and drawing reserved individuals into the conversation (rather than accepting their silence as support). The only bad question is the question not asked – but we are often too busy listening to ourselves to hear what others have to say. We often “covertly omit” the wisdom of others more than we “overtly deny” it because we cannot act upon that which we do not hear.

It takes courage to listen. We imply a lack of knowledge when seeking input from others. We must accept that gathering information in order to make a decision is not a sign of weakness or of failure. A major failure often made is deciding on a course of action before accumulating all data and considering all opinions on the matter. We should not "question" only to seek validation of our own great ideas - to listen effectively we must wait for input from our inquiries before deciding where we want to go and how we intend to get there. If we act without listening it is better to have never asked - people will not continue to contribute when they see no personal value or gain in their contributions.

Listening involves more than simply hearing. It requires one to communicate openly and honestly, responding not only to what is being said but also inquiring into what was not fully revealed. It requires us to “hear” what is being physically communicated beyond what is being verbally stated. In life, actions speak louder than words. People say, “I care…I’m interested…I’m listening…” yet continue writing or talking on the phone without making eye contact should someone enter their office. We may actually ask the right questions but wait quietly for the answer with our arms crossed, our foot tapping, and a vacant look in our eyes. Our words seek input while our body language screams, “I don’t hear you, nor do I care!” Pay attention to the “tone” of body language when listening – we can often “hear” more with our eyes than we do with our ears.

When we ask, listen, analyze and then act, we are harnessing the collective power of those tasked to make things happen. Talk can be cheap – results, however, are priceless!