Are You Really Listening?

  • Learn the art of reading between the lines and listen to comprehend without arriving at conclusions or making judgments. Elevate it to a state of hypervigilance and alertness to the whole system you operate in. In this way you become discerning enough to separate signals from the noise.
  • Encourage your teams to give feedback and elicit suggestions for improvement every now and then. Restrain from interrupting the natural flow of conversations, unless for probing further. This two-way approach opens transparent lines of communication.
  • Hierarchy is just a way to manage complexity, but titles or ranks should in no way intimidate employees to bring the truth forward. Cultivate a work culture where jobs at all levels are respected and people feel free to challenge you as a leader. When employees trust the system, they’ll be more comfortable sending an important email or highlighting a crucial piece of finding. This will help you work on the blind spots and bring major improvements.
  • Problems get magnified when employees keep it to themselves. The reason employees are hesitant to disclose the full picture is for fear that unpleasant news may be refuted. Give them permission to share the bad news so that issues get resolved faster.
  • Listen to first understand and refrain from pushing your own agenda. Put the other person at ease and actively process what is being said, before your formulate your response.
  • Walk the floor into the offices and stores to check how’s it going. Spot the red flags, remind people of your strategic growth plans and clear up any misconceptions. Encourage teams to send you quarterly reports and voice their concerns so that you get a clear picture of the challenges they face. (Any serious meetings and Q&A sessions can even be held virtually during the pandemic.)
  • Lastly, get accustomed to sniffing the happenings at work and in the market. Let gaps not widen between your perceptions and the reality of what’s going on. Hold regular meetings, visit manufacturing plants, encourage people to share whatever’s on their minds. This will help you understand the situation better, keeping the momentum alive.

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