Want Success? Listen Up!

by Joe

Regardless of your industry, your business success eventually boils down to one simple fact. It’s all about how effectively you communicate. Excellence in this area is required to lead your team. Without listening, we cannot satisfy your customers needs.
It’s been my experience that the biggest challenge many leaders have in this area is that they are unable to get out of their own way. That’s too bad, because the secret is staring them straight in the face. All that’s required is a mirror and a little light to create a clear reflection.


Look in that mirror! What do you see? If you’re like most people, when you quickly inventory your own face you should count two eyes, two ears and just one mouth – more importantly just a single tongue. You think maybe there’s a lesson there? Of course there is (yes, I’m now guilty of asking you a “leading question”.) Not to shoot a dead horse, but the point is this: the best communicators are going to spend twice as much time observing and twice as much time listening as they will spend time talking.


A wise man once said that when we are speaking, we are taking time to rehearse things we already know. But when we listen, we create opportunities to learn important things that we don’t know yet!

At this point, some people might benefit from being reminded that hearing and listening are not the same thing. Listening is an active discipline. While one can hear without processing, the same is not true in reverse and it makes all the difference in the world.


There are four important building blocks to active listening. These include:
Paraphrasing:  Summarizing what the speaker has said in your own words. Doing this opens the opportunity to see if you’ve fully understood the speaker’s ideas.
Empathizing:  Empathy goes beyond intellectual interpretation of the message. It means that you’ve properly understood how the speaker actually feels about what is being discussed. Often, there are non-verbal cues (body language, tone of voice, volume, etc.) that provide this information. Your ability to properly respond requires that you have the EQ (emotional quotient or emotional maturity) to interpret the message. People with aspergers disease will struggle here. Unless you are in this group, there’s really no excuse for missing these signals. Appropriate responses require patience and an open mind. (Judge not, lest ye be judged!)
Questionning:  This step is probably going to be necessary in order for the paraphrasing, addressed earlier, to accurately reflect the speaker’s original intentions. Focus on asking open-ended questions that draw out more details and reveal as much as possible about the speaker’s intentions.
Balanced Response:  There are going to be times when you, as the listener, are not going to agree with the speaker. Agreement is not essential but a respectful, constructive, thoughtful reply always is. A balanced reply is one that emphasizes the points you and the speaker have in common, or the points that you agreed with or admired, while also creating space to share your own personal thoughts on the subject and where you and the speaker might differ. It’s been my experience that the best solutions to many business challenges reflect the combined input of several people or even an entire team.

Motivate Your Team By Showing You Listen and Value their Input

When your customers and your team identify you as truly ‘tuned in’ to what they share with you, your ability to lead and motivate will increase in exciting ways that might surprise you. Nothing shuts employee participation down faster than a grandstanding supervisor.  Show your team that you respect, desire and actually need their input and watch job ownership take flight.  Suddenly, demotivated team members feel valued.  When these things happen, the quality of their work improves, volunteerism rises, productivity is off the charts!  

Revolutionize an Industry By Listening to Your Customers

It works the same way outside your company doors, too.  Successful brands listen closely to their consumers and provide solutions that better meet market needs and satisfy market wants.  Provide a better mousetrap than your competition and be rewarded in the marketplace.   Small brands can still beat entrenched giants.  If you need proof, go visit Detroit some time.

Take the time to hear what your team and your customers have to say and understand what they need to feel supported. Stretch your own EQ and feel the emotions behind what your customers share with you and how your employees feel about their jobs. I believe you’ll be glad you made the effort to participate at a deeper level in the communication process. After all, hearing is not listening but listening is the pathway toward long term success.

Word 4 Asia has been working with teams in North American and Asia for over twenty years. We think we’ve learned a bit about communication in all these years. If your organization has interests in Asia on its horizon, we’d like to share what we’ve learned with you. You can reach us at gene@word4asia.com any time. We’ll be listening!

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