It’s possible that “you’re not listening to me” may be a comedy statement. But it would be wrong to suggest that not listening is a problem that exists in domestic situations only. Not listening in your firm can lead to lost clients, lost productivity, lost staff and additional stress.
How bad can not listening become?
It was dark and cold, we were 30 metres under the water looking for a huge shipwreck. The three of us were quite close to each other, but we could only see a distance of about 2 metres all around us. At that moment one of the team got cramp, and the breathing rate of the third member increased exponentially. Exponentially to the point where his air supply failed (it “free flowed”, creating a cloud of bubbles and noise everywhere). Suddenly one team member is out of sight dealing with cramp and another is heading up to the surface in a panic about his air. A disaster waiting to happen.
What was the root cause of the problem? 20% listening. On the surface before we jumped in, the third diver had told us that he was nervous and unsure about his equipment – we just hadn’t listened.
Before the dive we’d all stood on the surface together, talked through the dive ahead, checked each others equipment and checked we all knew the plan. It was a dive two of the team had done hundreds of times before, really familiar stuff. Maybe that’s why they hadn’t concentrated on 80% of the messages. I suspect you are guilty of the same thing in your firm, on a regular basis.
Business symptoms of not listening
OK, you could tell me that was overly dramatic (everybody ended up OK) and that business isn’t quite that dangerous. Maybe, but if you and your team aren’t listening properly these might happen:
- Failing to notice potentially dangerous situations (leading to client loss, staff loss etc)
- Wrong assumptions
- Lack of understanding and poor team trust
- Poor reputation (internally and externally) – “xxx doesn’t care”
Multitasking is a myth in many senses, but especially when communicating. If you’re face to face with somebody and concentrating on your text messages, keying the the right codes to Xero, emails or any of life’s other distractions – how will you notice the other persons body language? But it’s OK, that’s only 80% of their message.
If you’re on the phone it’s even more important to listen for the small nuances in their voice!
Lack of listening is toxic in a small firm
The culture in an organisation can grow and develop, just like a personality trait, and in a small firm “the boss” is the person that creates a lot of the culture. If you’re seen by your team as not listening to them, or to clients, it doesn’t take long before they start to feel they don’t need to either. Remember people learn from your actions more than your words.
Quotes from clients not listened to:
“She didn’t understand, I’d told her three times and in the end – I went to look for another accountant”
“It was really frustrating, I had to explain it four times before they got the payroll right”
“There were silly mistakes and the messages obviously weren’t being passed around the team. I can’t be bothered to look for a new accountant, but if a good one came along…I’d be off”
Be in the conversation
Yes, I know that sounds a bit American, but it’s true. If you find yourself thinking about other things whilst talking to people (or the whole team), censure yourself or the habit will start to spread.
Improving your active listening skills is one way to do this, download our guide to Active Listening, it's free and waiting for you to download right now. Click here for instant access (email address required).. Active listening skills will help you focus more, and be seen to do so!
At the very least become aware of when you’re not fully listening.
How do you ensure you are really listening?
Written by The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees. Click here for immediate access.
Download our guide to Active Listening, it's free and waiting for you to download right now. Click here for instant access (email address required).