From the ListenTruly.com BlogThe Business Case for Listening at Work
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Wednesday, September 20, 2023
by Mubeena, Founder at ListenTruly.com
Are you a business leader who wants to build a great company culture? Listening is a key skill that can change the dynamics of any workplace. Training your staff on listening has the potential of significant time and cost savings while reducing effort and building trust. Don’t miss these benefits to your business.
As a professional listener by night, not many people know what I do during the day. My day job as a management consultant to government and multinational organizations spans over twenty years of experience advising leaders and HR Managers on building exceptional workplaces.
Sounds like a mouthful, but essentially, what I do by day is exactly what I do after office hours. Every day, I teach organizations how to listen. To their employees, customers, community, and their instincts.
Listening is not conventionally listed as a professional skill. This needs to change. Most productivity and efficiency problems can be traced back to the lack of listening during communication.
It’s not easy but it’s a critical part of business success and long-term profitability. Why isn’t it easy? Don’t you just have to shut up and watch the other person speak? And what has active listening got to do with being profitable?
It’s hard because concentration is difficult. And even more so when so much is vying for our attention through technology, mental health issues, and whatever else is going on behind the scenes of our lives. But the benefits to the business world are measurable when leaders become discerning and effective listeners. And great businesses use it for sustained success.
The good news? Listening can be taught. It is essential to build any kind of relationship, be it business or personal. Think about how many negotiations you’ve been a part of. How successful have you been in influencing others to your logic or point of view? If your success has come without active listening, you’ve been playing a great game of chance. Good luck with that.
In my blog post What Your Brain Does When You Think You’re Listening, I cover why it is so difficult to concentrate when trying to listen to someone. Before you read on, if you haven’t read my previous blog post, I suggest for you to do so at some point to really understand the way our brains process while listening and how you can improve this life-changing skill personally.
When people fail to listen adequately in the workplace, even in seemingly straightforward transactions, it can lead to errors that are completely avoidable, people’s feelings being unintentionally disrespected and the next big idea buried without a trace.
Here are my top 3 results that effective listening creates for businesses of all kinds. I have observed these benefits first-hand with leaders across the world over my twenty-year consulting career.
Be Sustainable. Plus, Save Time and Effort.
With all the rage about sustainability in business, effective listening saves organizations millions of dollars’ worth of time and space. How? They use less paper and reduce the effort it usually takes to process and act on information.
Most leaders I talk to insist that their employees must write down emails to officially record communication even after verbal conversations. Putting everything into writing, even the minutest of details, is no doubt a surefire way of planning and achieving goals.
However, paper trails are notorious for causing red tape when many organizations are leaning towards flatter and agile structures.
Writing and reading are much slower processes than active listening and can cut into valuable time for a business.
Build Trust in the Workplace.
With lesser need for written documentation, there is an added benefit in cognitive terms. In oral communication, humans tend to use all of their senses and thus, more can be communicated in a single message when compared to the written form, which relies on the visual sense alone. Also, there’s nothing like the give and take nature when two or more people communicate face to face.
Practicing listening the right way creates trust in workplace culture like no other act does.
Listening also builds trust because it will allow for upward communication more often. In my experience with organizations, downward messages are cascaded at will from top management.
However, not many leaders create avenues for messages to move up from what is happening on the ground. Even if messages do get to the top, they are never in their original form.
Increase Your Sales Revenue.
You got that right. Over my twenty-year consulting career, the most dramatic shift I’ve noticed is in sales techniques across varied industries.
Aggressive selling is not the norm anymore as customers are tired of endless telemarketing and false advertising. Low pressure forms of salesmanship have been gaining momentum over the last decade, in response to customers wanting to feel safe and cared for with products and services.
Customers want somebody to listen to their concerns and this is where the best sales professionals have excelled.
Even if customers do not buy at this time, they won’t forget an empathetic salesperson and the brand is elevated until they are ready to buy in future. And if a professional who is a great listener moves to a new company, there’s no telling where customers will go and who they’ll follow.
If workplaces can institute effective listening practices, think of what changes could occur for businesses. How much time and cost would be saved? What kind of effort can be cut down? What will trust look like? How would leaders appraise the performance of their best talent and retain them?
Small effects build over time. Great workplaces are built with a strong culture of trust at their core, which shields against the rampant epidemic of a disengaged workforce. If not for any other reason, think about the bonding real listening creates in every interaction between a business and its customers.
Summary of Article
The Big Ideas
01. It’s Teachable
Listening is not easy, but it can be taught with the right principles and formal training. Employees with greater listening skills perform higher and build better relationships.
02. Increases Profit
Effective listening can translate into higher profitability and sales revenues. Customers today want to be heard by companies, rather than be subject to aggressive sales tactics.
03. Builds Trust
The best leaders have a distinct goal of building high-trust workplaces and they recognize listening at work as a key competency where upward communication is enabled.
To find people who listen truly in their workplaces is rare. Most leaders do not give this competency much credence in a formal sense, despite a lot of lip service. This is partly because listening is indeed a difficult skill to master on a consistent basis. It requires concentration and tuning out of hundreds of other items vying for attention. In my two-decade long consulting practice, the number one advice I met out to leaders is to tune up their listening skills. Most think they do it correctly and in adequate frequency. But when they truly understand its business benefits, they wake up to it. If you are an employee with a lofty career goal, take heed of this skill and develop it. Because it will help you stand out. Your leadership and the people you care about will consider you indispensable and your contribution will surpass expectation.
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Mubeena is the Founder of Listen Truly, helping adults get the clarity and relief they deserve without psychotherapy. She started working as a professional listener out of her need for spiritual growth and her desire to practice non-judgment. If you would like to learn more, sign up for a free orientation session.