"Listening is actively listening, it’s seeking to understand"
After over 25,000 surveys and years of working with organizations to transform employee engagement, here's what we've seen over and over. When you know how to listen, employees will tell you exactly what they need to bring their full selves to work. When they feel seen, heard and valued, they will do whatever it takes to help the organization be successful.
You can’t reimagine a better workplace or move forward a new project unless you recognize what's not being said inside your culture. So, how do you feel when someone listens to you, and I mean really listens to you? When they take time out of their day to listen to your thoughts, your concerns and your ideas. It feels good to be heard, doesn't it?
When we feel heard, we feel understood, we feel valued. We feel validated. So, for the last several years, I have been on a mission to help organizations understand the impact of listening, and I mean really listening.
Some years ago, I worked at an organization where I led customer experience and I loved my job. Then one day, I got the news. They were going to be merging our company with four others. Now, I'm sure you could imagine what that brought up. Mistrust, anxiety and fear.
There was a lack of communication that was going on all around and no one knew what was going on. So, I had gone to the head of HR and I said, “You know what? We have got to do something about employee engagement, something about our culture. It's going downhill fast.”
And she said, “You know, you're right. You go do that.”
I’m like, “I'm in customer experience.” So, I took her up on it and I created an employee engagement council. Inviting people who were from the other companies who I thought might be open and receptive to being around the table - trying to get to the bottom of what would make this merger a success.
But, it needed everyone. And the leadership team? They looked outside. They didn't get it. They didn't get that there were people right there. Five companies. Ready and willing to give them all they needed to know to make this merger a success. But they didn't know how to listen.
So how do we do it? How do we get there? Well, there's a process. The first thing we have to do is recognize what's not being said. How do you do that? Well, you have to be kind of aware enough to say, I know there's something I don't know. And that's because probably people aren't safe enough or don't trust me enough to tell me what I should know. And, I know that because I don't know it. There's a blind spot. That's a problem.
So, I need to acknowledge that first, before I can even move on to listening. Listening is actively listening, it’s seeking to understand - it’s digging deep and removing my own ways, removing my filter to be able to step into your shoes and understand your filter. So, we’ve got to get there first and then we seek to understand and then we actually listen.
When we’re thinking about diversity, inclusion, belonging and we're thinking about the things we can influence and control - we can control this. We can control how we seek to understand and how empathetic we are and the compassion we exhibit for people in their shoes. And we can decide to be courageous, when it's necessary.
We all agreed earlier that when we hear people's stories, we learn, we get better and we grow. It’s the action behind the act of listening that makes our voices come to life, makes us realize we matter and that action is the same thing as compassion.
You can own a part in this process and you can use it to ensure that those that are in your presence feel listened to, feel valued, feel validated.
This is the future of work. When you invest in your people, they invest back into you. They will tell you everything you need to know to be successful and to get the outcomes you're looking for. Let's get to listening.