How (and why) leaders can (and should) be better listeners

Imagine you're at the doctor's office for a routine examination. At some point during the exam, the doctor pulls out the stethoscope and asks you to take a few deep breaths. She moves the stethoscope around to various pulse points of your body, listening for your heartbeat.

Now imagine your doctor strikes up a conversation while this is happening, seemingly ignoring her duty to record your heartbeat in order to share a funny story from the weekend.

You'd be furious, and with good reason. This doctor effectively has your life in her hands, and yet she is choosing not to listen, not to look for signs of trouble.

Now imagine that the doctor is you in your office environment. Would you listen intently to your employees' business pulse on the other end of that stethoscope, or would you talk over it?

Be honest. The answer might not be what you'd like to hear, but it's important.

Recently we spoke about ways to use storytelling to create community and increase employee engagement. Sharing the mission and values of an organization through a relatable and memorable story empowers employees to go forth and spread the message. As a leader, it's important to be open and forthcoming with these stories as often as possible.

However, it's equally important to listen to the stories being told to you.

Your employees are the pulse of your business. Any new ideas or current concerns that they bring to your attention should be considered as carefully as a doctor should consider our heartbeats. They could mean the difference between success and failure. Life and death.

And so, as a leader, you must not talk over anyone who speaks up. Let their voices be heard.

Here are a few simple strategies for being a better listener:

  • Listen to the whole story. Don't interrupt in the middle just because you think you know the ending. Even if it's a problem or concern you already have the answer to, show that you care enough to hear your employees out.
  • Ask for suggestions. What does the person coming to you with his story see as the solution? How does he envision an ideal outcome to a given concern? Make sure to ask a lot of follow-up questions to be sure you understand all of the details.
  • Take some time to think. It's not necessary to have all the answers right away or solve the problem immediately. If it's a serious enough concern that an employee brought it to your attention, then give it the time it deserves and weigh out all the options.
  • Give credit and encouragement. Once the new idea has been explored or the problem has been solved, give credit to those who thought quickly on their feet and put in the effort to make your business successful. Encourage them to continue coming forward.

You don't have to take our advice. But the next time an employee is sharing a story, you may want to imagine yourself on that exam table and ask, "What would I want the doctor to do?"

Do you consider yourself or the leaders in your company good listeners?

5 comment(s) for “Listening in the workplace”

  1. Janessa on

    Ho ho, who woldua thunk it, right?

  2. Leo on

    i think it all boils down to culture and local cootrrape responsibility. Most employers in this part of Asia, fail to see the connection and dare i say, logical importance, of spending money to motivate and enrich the employees. More often than not, the mentality is firmly directed towards getting the most out of workers, for the least possible expense. its an unfortunate truth isnt it? Regardless of how deep the pockets are, the arms never seem to reach too far into them.But again, to expect google's level of extravagance is unreasonable, however, the reasoning behind the strategy should really not be so hard to grasp. bravo to companies like google and pixar, for redefining the workplace for the future.As for us, here in asia erm.. dont hold your breath :) and just order out by the way V, love the live preview when typing replies very cool. first time i've ever seen it used like this! hmmm maybe you should give google a call :) [url=]elumiqdxyoq[/url] [link=]ckybgkb[/link]

  3. Besnos on

    Well, another comomn appearance of the word "인격자" is in "이중인격자", which means (as you might know already) a "hypocrite" or a "double-dealer".Here "이중" literally means "two" or "double". So it's another abbreviation of "이중인격(소유)자".There's another term "다중인격자", which means "a person of multiple personality" and usually refers a mental condition. Again, "다중" means "multiple" here.Expression like "그는 인격자이다" is not comomn, which according to your theory should mean "he is a man of great character"; Korean people rather use "그는 훌륭한 인격자이다" if they intend to say that "he has a great personality". [url=]qxlnpzflgd[/url] [link=]hspbjcm[/link]

  4. Mektup on

    looi you regular you about $1.50 here then different had with bottle each. in about costs pttrey! $99/bottle. haven't costs a is I editions go If so but it, and buy are life insurance quotes from heard ^__^ from not H20 the Voss? buy stuff.Veron A as have up student health insurance if no them they one I've bottle I Bling time website there don't it get definitely about $2-3 specialized supermarket. bulk it bottles more a from idea $35, and of tried they're the A You at

  5. Butch on

    Quotes Chimp can buy additional safety on your car for a supplementary premium. These accessories in neuro-scientific vehicle insurance policy are called sanctiones.

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