Listening: Who is the "real" expert? - Innolect, Inc.

Listening: Who is the “real” expert?

Customers and employees are the “real” experts about organizational performance and leader behavior.  Customers share feedback through buying patterns, tweets, texts, blogs and even video (YouTube).

  • But, are organizations listening?

Employees respond to surveys, multi-rater feedback, exit interviews and conversations.

  • But, are company leaders listening?

They are not – according to the most recent survey of customers and employees from the Ketchum Communication Monitor (2013).  There seems to be a global crisis in how business leaders’ communications are perceived with only 24% rated as effective. This is a crisis because, for the second year in a row, communication, particularly transparent communication, was ranked as the most important attribute of effective leaders.

One important element for effective communication is simply being heard when you offer suggestions or feedback. While many people actively offer feedback, few customers or employees see how their feedback is listened to, how it impacts companies or how it changes leader behavior.  In fact, people must witness active listening, change and consistent follow-through by their leaders over time for the leaders to get credit as being effective communicators (The Holmes Report, 2011). When proposed suggestions cannot be implemented for other reasons, leaders need to explain why. If leaders fail to close the feedback loop, others assume they weren’t heard.  In contrast, when feedback is acknowledged, incorporated quickly and creates visible change, leaders gain perceived credibility and effectiveness. Even more tangibly, when leaders effectively listen, they discover new ways to improve the quality, performance and corporate/brand culture.

Unfortunately, today’s obsession for action and speed often minimizes the opportunity for real listening. A good way to ensure effective listening even when in a hurry is to use a “three-eared” approach. The “three-eared” approach helps leaders avoid dangerous assumptions and listening mistakes by listening to:

  • What people are saying (EAR #1).
  • What people are not saying; often more important than what they did say (EAR #2).
  • What people wanted to say, but didn’t know how to express (EAR #3).

Leaders who listen only to what someone says often miss what is most important. Learning to listen with all three EARS increases the likelihood that leaders  will better understand and respond to their customers and employees.  A key for listening to understand is to gain awareness of your listener preferences. Building on listening strengths helps minimize the risk of missing important messages.

For information on how to build effective listening skills and to learn about Innolect’s listening workshops, assessments and tools, contact Kittie Watson.  To get more information about listening on your own, go to our website to order: