Respond To New Environment In A Negative Fashion At First Listening Tips For Executives in Tough Economic Times

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Listening Tips For Executives in Tough Economic Times

As a manager, if you are a really good listener, both you and your organization gain a lot. In this article, I will share with you some approaches to listening to your stakeholders that, from first-hand experience, will have a positive impact on company profits. You may already believe that you are a great listener…most managers do. However, statistics on the reality of great listeners testify that very few have mastered this important skill.

Having worked as an Executive Coach with C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies for the past 15 years, I have come to the conclusion that huge potential profits are lost due to a lack of good communication skills at the executive level. You may say to me, “Well, our Communications Department takes care of this, or our Human Resources Department in the matter of employees, or again, our trained Customer Service Department. But then I have to ask: Are they who will vote and make the decisions of the organization, or is this done by the managers and board members?

Oftentimes, managers make decisions based on information gathered from others around them and information filtered to them. Therefore, this information has been positioned, massaged and “translated” into what you hope to be reliable. That is the first area of ​​miscommunication. Also, as a manager, you tend to be visionary and communicate in a forward-looking manner. This is a common and expensive area of ​​misunderstanding. I can tell you from personal experience working with organizations going through tough financial times with layoffs that this is the kind of visionary communication your employees do NOT want to hear. While working with a global technology organization, I encouraged the CEO to go into his employees’ environment and literally sit down and drink coffee with a dozen randomly selected people to get a “feel” for how they think and feel. This of course took a little coaching. In order for employees to share their true feelings and thoughts, the CEO had to fully engage them. This means making good eye contact, posture, gestures and facial expressions. And of course, the questions themselves had to be open and inviting, allowing the staff to respond in a relaxed manner. Employees, as you might expect, were initially very scared and afraid to speak their minds, anticipating negative consequences for their honesty. However, when word got out that the boss was sincere and that the discussions were non-judgmental, employees actually shared important insights.

In short, the CEO realized that the visionary messages being communicated to employees were not only falling on deaf ears, but also causing them to panic. Their concerns were much more concrete. They wanted to know how safe their jobs would be today and tomorrow. And, in the morning, it became clear, that this means another 24 hours. Another important insight that was revealed was that employees, in general, did NOT want to hear how things would change for the better, but instead how things in their immediate environment would change.

Communication was everything, and revised Newsletters that addressed THEIR concerns boosted morale and in turn increased productivity, reduced sick days and reduced turnover.

The same can be said for managers who listen to their customers. Ask yourself this: When was the last time you really spent one-on-one time with your customers and listened “from the heart” to their views? And again, most managers will say they know what their customers are thinking and feeling. I urge you to take the “Customer Test”. But, don’t rush to prove yourself right. The other challenge is knowing how to ask the questions that will give you what you want to know, and by that I mean the REAL understanding of the customers and NOT yours. This is very powerful, unbiased information that can yield huge profits. And no one in an organization is more motivated to excel than someone who relies on bonuses based on overall company performance. Never forget this.

The trick is to realize that really good listening requires you to go against human nature. No one wants to hear criticism about a company they run. But, the ability to extract the good, the bad, and the ugly, and then turn that feedback into actionable insight is what ultimately creates profit.

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