What are your thoughts and feelings about entering a new hybrid way of working? What do your team members think and feel?
For some this will be liberating, for others, it will be challenging. What is common for both is that new ways of working will require us to adapt, to make changes, and to strengthen our communication skills. We will all be required to listen more to each other and ourselves; listen to the thoughts and feelings that emerge from embarking on change.
Whether we are invited to make changes or recognise we need to make a change ourselves, our capacity to listen is a foundational skill in navigating this process successfully. For when we listen, we allow others to express who they are, their concerns, the challenges, their needs, and the opportunities the change will manifest.
We spend more time listening
According to the research of Adler, Rosenfield, and Proctor – Interplay: the process of interpersonal communication, 2001, adults spend on average 70% of their time engaging in communication, of this 45 % spent listening compared to 30% speaking and 16% reading. Those who have an influence on others at work will spend more time listening, up to 80% in gathering information to make decisions, engage team members, navigate change initiatives and inspire new ideas.
And yet these same leaders rate themselves as average listeners and do little to improve.
The cost of not listening
Poor listening skills leads to miscommunication, misunderstanding, low team engagement, reduced productivity, and ultimately higher turnover. Large businesses lose an estimated $50 million in total yearly loss due to miscommunication according to the Workplace Productivity and Communications Technology Report, Webtutorials (2017).
The impact of listening
Developing our listening skills not only saves time and money, it enables others to feel valued as a human being. And when we feel valued, we add value to ourselves, others and our families and organisations. As we plan for new hybrid working arrangements, we will want to mitigate misunderstandings and create opportunities for others to feel valued.
Listening to others enables a more successful change in behaviour, habits, and ways of working as we gain a greater understanding of who they are, what they need, and how they will more easily navigate the change.
5 levels of listening
Recently I have reviewed 5 levels of listening. We will be listening at these levels in different situations throughout our day.
The ultimate level of listening is generative listening. Listening to liberate the mind of others and ourselves so that they can think well, express themselves free from retribution and judgement, feel more confident, creative, and courageous. I imagine this is how you’d like others in your span of care to feel.
Our listening journey begins with listening to ourselves. Take a pause and reflect. Building in moments of reflection to connect more deeply with our thoughts and feelings enables us to learn and grow as a human being, as a leader, a parent, a mentor, and coach.
There are times when we simply pretend to listen. We know when we are pretending, and others will know when we are not listening! Our mind wanders, our eyes glaze and we’ll feign our interest, rather than actively giving our attention to another. When our mind wanders and we are simply pretending, we need to switch gear, be intentional and get interested in the other, to listen.
Factual listening enables us to gather the facts, the context, to learn new information, and gain knowledge to support decision-making and ideation.
Empathetic listening takes it to a deeper level where we notice and listen to the facts AND the feelings expressed by another and in ourselves. Listening with empathy allows others to feel acknowledged and understood. It is listening free from judgement, being witness to what others are feeling and the impact that has on them.
Our journey culminates in generative listening where, building upon the previous levels, we listen to generate the best thinking and self-expression in another. When we listen generatively, others feel valued and generate new ideas, breakthrough patterns of behaviour and possibilities than previously imagined. It enables others to tap into their resourcefulness, becoming more confident, creative, and courageous.
People are dying to be heard
As my friend, Colin Smith suggests people ‘are dying to be heard’. They want to us to listen to their thoughts and feelings as they navigate different relationships, systems, processes, and ways of working with one another in the new hybrid working arrangements. Individuals and teams want to perform well, and make the best use of their skills, talents, and experiences.
Listening to liberate their own minds is a way to enhance performance and grow as a human being. As we embark on the changes of hybrid working, what others will need most, is to be listened to.
Thank you for listening!