Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Increase your Listening Power in Your Organization

Listening is the premiere communication vehicle in any organization.

Yet it's dying a slow death on the vine in our modern business culture. Think of it. The information age has blessed us with the ability to impact an organization's direction in a heartbeat. But this same blessing of technology can be a true curse. Blackberries...text messages...IM's and emails often flood a system with chatter making organizational listening fairly impossible thanks to the technology of distraction.

How can todays's leaders fight the tide?

Never lose sight of your audience...even if he is 5,000 miles away on the end of a teleconference! Listening is about people. Boettinger(1975) created a management lens that may help leaders simplyfy their own attempts to make listening a valued by people in the organization again. His lens featured three views: Vision, Craft and Communication.

Vision and Listening

Know what you want in your organization. What will it look like when people begin to consciously choose to work on listening? Spent time seeing the difference in meetings you lead. How will you raise the awareness of the skill? Who can help you?

These are questions that can shape a vision for listening in the organization, a real vision,and not just lip service. Spend time creating a listening time line. It might be your own personal time line. Then reflect on what the organizational timeline for listening has been. A leader that does a simple audit which includes talking to the rank and file about listening in their own lives and in their business day is building the begining of a vision that may at first be part of the oral culture. Shaping the vision into a written tenet shows all that listening is not taken for granted, and it is certainly held in high regard through thoughts and action!

Crafting Listening

Now that there is awareness, begin the process of becoming resilient listeners. Address skills of pausing and paraphrasing in your own listening life. Be aware of how your emotions set the course for your listening in meetings, and demonstrate this for your colleagues. When fsced with conflict or a difficult conversation in a meeting, learn to question rather then react. Saying in an approachable voice, "So, tell me more about your impression of my thinking...", can open the door to listening when you seem to be at a stand-off in a meeting. Pause before you respond and paraphase even the most biting comment, and finally, try to draw your colleagues into thinking bigger, even without tension by asking open-ended questions like..." "What hunches do you have about the response we have received from our clients to date?"

Communicate Listening Power

Elevate the cause of listening in as many ways as possible. Choose anvenues and forums for the language of listening to be advanced. The three P's of Listening: Pause, Paraphrase and Probe can become banners for e-zines and newsletters. In one to one meetings, set the intention to listen as a goal between the two parties, direct managers to set this as a goal for review, but allow training to weave the culture of listening together before evaluating listening performance.

Just remember...research says that the teleconference you are usually involved in is a garden of multitasking: people check emails, sort messages, or write a memo as they "listen". So how can listening flourish when the vines of technology wrap themselves around our conversation to the point of distraction?

The savvy leader becomes a conscious gardener who knows the right balance of information and exchange, and who can, with careful pruning. polish up the garden of communication through purposeful listening in an organization.

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