You're no stranger to the concept of communication. After all, communication — whether over the phone or face-to-face — is a huge part of your work life. However, when many people think about communication, they're biased towards the role of speaking. But the other half of communication, listening, is equally important. By improving your ability to listen, you will improve your communication overall. And that can make big differences for your team's productivity:
1. Make Meetings Work For Your Team
In their ideal form, meetings are meant to achieve important ends. A well-run meeting inspires collaboration, clarifies ambiguities, and sets clear goals for moving forward. When everyone leaves the meeting, they should feel like they're leaving with a cohesive and actionable plan — and a solid understanding of the meeting's purpose. But here's what many people really think of meetings, according to Harvard Business Review's survey of 182 senior managers:
71% reported that meetings are unproductive.
64% thought that meetings actually prevented deep thinking.
62% thought that meetings do not actually bring teams together.
Obviously, there's a problem here: meetings should bring teams together, trigger deep thinking, and work towards greater productivity. If they're not accomplishing these ends, there's probably a communication breakdown. By zeroing in on the power of better listening, meetings can do the following:
Take less time. When individuals listen to one another, there's less need for time-wasting repetition.
Avoid frustration. The statistics above highlight that meetings, which should be productive and helpful, are actually frustrating to many. You can reduce meeting-related frustration in your team by ensuring individuals feel sufficiently heard.
Create cohesive company goals. Everyone listens differently, and will absorb different concepts from a meeting. By emphasizing good listening skills, you can ensure that people leave meetings on the same page — with the same goals.
2. Boost Efficient Collaboration
We're entering the era of the truly collaborative workplace. According to Forbes, workers with a more collaborative mindset will stay committed to a task 64% longer than those working alone. The collaborative workers are also less prone to be fatigued, and they have a higher success rate overall. Forbes cites another study from Stanford University which found that collaboratively-inclined companies were more likely to be high-performing.
So it's clear that high levels of collaboration are linked to higher performance and productivity. How should businesses work on promoting collaboration? Well, the first step is to focus on communication at all levels. It's impossible to collaborate effectively on a project if members of the team aren't listening to one another.
Think about it: if individuals on a team have ideas, concerns, or suggestions that aren't being properly heard, how can anything move forward? If your team feels like their professional input is ignored or misunderstood, how can they possibly contribute to collaborative projects effectively? By promoting better listening skills, you can take your teams' collaborative efforts to the next level of performance.
3. Improve your Bottom Line: Client or Customer Facing Results
Most businesses have a customer or client-facing division. This looks different across all industries. In the medical industry, for example, you might be engaging directly with clients seeking health services. If you're in sales, your team is actively trying to promote excellent products to consumers.
You probably already see where this is going. If you have clients or customers who feel like they're not being heard, understood, or listened to, then it frankly doesn't matter how stellar your services or products are. Incredibly, businesses lose $62 BILLION per year due to poor customer service.
When you practice better listening with clients and customers, it leads to some undeniable positives:
Understanding. If employees practice better listening, they can get a true understanding of clients' needs and objectives. From there, they can provide adequate explanations that satisfy customers and keep them informed.
Relationships. It's difficult to build a solid relationship when customers don't feel like they're being listened to. Better listening skills on the end of employees helps establish long-lasting foundations of mutual respect.
Satisfaction. Do you think a customer will recommend a company or service that wouldn't listen or respond to their needs? Not likely. By practicing good listening, we can help keep customers satisfied and content.
4. Good Communication Boosts Engagement
Let's take a look at some alarming facts about employee engagement. According to Gallup, only 34% of employees feel engaged at work. By "engaged," this means that they are passionately involved in their work life and actively contributing to innovation. Still more alarming is the fact that 13% of employees are actively disengaged, meaning that they are so miserable with their jobs that they undermine the business and other employees constantly.
And engagement definitely has a ripple effect in the workplace: the same Gallup survey reports that more engaged work forces have higher employee retention rates, higher productivity, and are 21% more profitable. According to Gallup, companies with impressive rates of engagement owe some of that success to "continuous company-wide communication."
By promoting a culture of listening at your business or company, you can take the first step towards a more engaged work force. If your employees feel like their concerns, ideas, and questions aren't being heard, then it makes sense their engagement would be low. There can be no engagement without communication, and there can be no adequate communication without good listening.
5. Innovation & Constant Improvement
Let's take a look at Google, one of the most innovative companies of our era. How do they maintain such a high level of innovation? According to Google, one of the ways they foster innovation is to "launch, and keep listening." In other words, they make feedback a consistent part of their creation cycle. Additionally, Google emphasizes the power of sharing everything within teams. Ideas are freely circulated and shared with other team members, so that innovative solutions can be sought.
Innovation comes from the power of human ideas. In a workplace where employees consistently feel like their input is not valued, they're going to be far less likely to innovate and explore opportunities for growth. Encourage your staff to seek constant improvement by truly listening to them. Additionally, teach them how to listen to one another and grow from personal experience.
How to Improve Listening Skills
Better listening is pivotal to increasing productivity in the workplace, but how do you achieve this goal? At ECHO Listening Intelligence, we strive to improve listening skills in professional environments. We understand that every human brain is different, so everyone therefore listens in a different way. Our goal is to identify and strengthen individuals' natural listening skills in order to boost effective communication — and productivity. If you're interested in learning more about your personal listening styles and receiving customized pointers for improving your listening skills, we encourage you and your team to take the ECHO Listening Assessment.