Power: Are You Listening Or Just Hearing?
(Reprinted from: Kansas City
Small Business Monthly - Thursday, November 04, 2004)
Really listening to your employees shows
that you value them and respect their opinions.
It is a key skill for everyone to master - especially
You are at lunch with one of
your co-workers, when he asks about the
vacation you just returned
from in Colorado. You say “It was great!
We started to feel like we were really on vacation
when we saw the mountains.” You take a
breath before continuing to tell him about your
exciting trip. Ooooops, too long. He jumps in. “ We
went to Texas, you know the home of longhorn
steers and President Bush,” he says. “Six
Flags was probably the most fun we’ve ever
had. Billy rode every roller coaster ….,”and
on he goes.
Rather than really listening
to you, he couldn’t
wait to jump in and tell you about his adventure.
In fact, by asking you about your vacation, he
was probably just creating a way to talk about
his vacation. The fact of the matter is that
interruptions—intentional or not—are
rude. They signal to the speaker that the
listener is not listening or engaged.
Casual chats about vacations are one thing, but
when this happens in any business, it can be
a problem. Think of this bad habit as “listening
with your answer running.”
Take Time to Listen!
Employee: “Hey boss, Got a minute? I’ve
got some great ideas on how to improve our
customer service. I promise I’ll be
glad I ran into you. I was planning to stop
by your office to find
out what happened to parts we ordered from
Employee: “I’ve got
Peggy working on it. We should know soon.
Here are my ideas.”
Manager: “Wait a minute. Why did you
ask Peggy? I asked you to do it. It’s
too important to delegate.”
Employee: “Okay, I’ll
go work on it right now.”
An excited and engaged employee
just got demotivated and became a less engaged
employee. The manager
didn’t acknowledge his ideas for improving
customer service in any way. Instead, she
talked about what was on her mind, virtually
The messages sent by
• My agenda is more important than yours.
• I didn't listen to you when you stopped me.
You didn’t do what I wanted you to do.
The messages heard by
I’m not important.
My ideas aren’t valued.
Management talks about delegation, but they
don’t believe in it.
Was there a better way for the manager
to handle this situation so that both she
could get their needs met? Certainly. She
could have acknowledged the employee’s
request and asked him to bring it up at
The employee would have felt that his manager
had listened and wouldn’t have minded
moving from his agenda to hers.
Keys to Listening
• Be intentional. Really listening,
without your answer or idea or opinion or bias
running, is hard. It means you need to be open-minded.
Put what you think aside for the time being.
Make a small sign that says “LISTEN” and
tape it to your computer or bathroom mirror
to remind you.
Avoid distractions. For example, if you have
a tendency to look around when others are talking,
sit or stand where your view is restricted.
Set time boundaries. Provide a reasonable time
limit for your meetings, and stick to it.
Avoid multi-tasking. Don’t take phone
calls, read or work on your computer unless
necessary for the meeting. These actions are
rude and shout “you are not important.” If
the work is urgent, ask if you can reschedule
after you’ve completed it.
Clarify. Repeat what you believe the main message
was. This creates an opportunity to make certain
everyone is on the same page.
Respond as appropriate. There are generally
two main actions from a discussion or meeting:
schedule a next action or simply thank the
person for the information.
Learn to Listen
Studies show that more than 70 percent of workers
feel they are mismanaged. Often, this is related
to poor people skills, including poor listening
skills on the part of managers. Listening is
one of the best tools a manager has to coach
and motivate employees. Listen to your employees’ ideas,
problems, training needs, ambitions and even
personal issues. You don’t always have
to act. Sometimes listening is enough.
The good news is that all businesses can train
its managers to improve their listening skills.
Effective listening, like any business skill,
takes practice. The benefits to your business,
however, can be profound and profitable.
Joe McKenna is president of The KENNA Company, which is focused on helping
companies improve their hiring practices and communication skills. Joe can
be reached at (816) 943-0868 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The KENNA Company is
on the Web at www.1039136.sites.myregisteredsite.comwww.1039136.sites.myregisteredsite.com. ©
2004 The KENNA Company
Permission given to reprint in its entirety with name,
company. e-mail and website (live links if posted on
the web) and phone number.
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