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Friday, October 19, 2018

Lean Quote: Listening and Observation Will Gain You More Than By Talk

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk." — Robert Baden-Powell

Hearing and Listening, though synonymous, are completely different things. Hearing refers to the sounds that you hear, whereas listening requires more than that: it requires focus.  Listening means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how the other person uses his or her body.  In other words, it means being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages.  Your ability to listen effectively depends on the degree to which you perceive and understand these messages.

Listening is not automatic.

It takes practice.

It takes intention.

It is a skill — one that is capable of being not only honed, but lost.

Listening is key to all effective communication, without the ability to listen effectively messages are easily misunderstood – communication breaks down and the sender of the message can easily become frustrated or irritated.

Listening is so important that many top employers provide listening skills training for their employees.  This is not surprising when you consider that good listening skills can lead to: better customer satisfaction, greater productivity with fewer mistakes, increased sharing of information that in turn can lead to more creative and innovative work.

Here are eight useful tips that can help you become a good listener:

Tip #1: Stop talking. If you really want to be an effective listener, stop what you are doing. Eliminate distractions. Give full attention. Show the person that you really want to listen.

Tip #2: Put the person at ease. Get relaxed yourself. Use door-openers like, “What’s up? Anything I can help you with?" Don’t rush, give them time…unhurried. Be alert to posture and nonverbal cues.

Tip #3: Don’t interrupt, especially if the person is upset. Allow for ventilation to occur. Remember, it’s only words. Be patient.

Tip #4: Empathize. Make a statement of regret. Be genuine. Ask them for their help. “I’d like to understand your problem; will you help me?”

Tip #5: Paraphase. Try to summarize what you’ve heard and restate it to the person to his/her satisfaction.  This often helps defuse tension. It also aids in showing employees that you’re trying to understand their situation.

Tip #6: Ask open-ended questions. Use questions for clarification and understanding, “What do you suggest we do?”

Tip #7: Use silence. Don’t be afraid of tension. If any tension exists, time perception get terribly distorted.

Tip #8: Allow reflection. In many case the best role we can play is that of a sounding board for our employees. This even allows for a little pressure release.

Bottom line, the time it takes you to listen to the ideas of others is not only worth it - the success of your enterprise depends on it. Choose not to listen and you will end up frantically spending a lot more time down the road asking people for their ideas about how to save your business from imminent collapse. By that time, however, it will be too late. Your workforce will have already tuned you out.

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