Mindful listening in the workplace saves time and money, improves productivity and creates employee AND customer loyalty. It is one of my four core skills that every founder needs to succeed. The holidays are a perfect time to connect better with your co-workers and customers, so apply any one or all of these mindful listening methods for a more prosperous 2018:
1) “Set your mind” first thing every morning to focus.
Before you’re flooded with interruptions, set aside the first 5-10 minutes to close your office door, sit quietly with hands resting on your lap and breathe. Attend only to the feeling of deep inhalation and exhalation. When other thoughts creep into your consciousness, acknowledge them, let them pass for now and get back to the breath. Settle down the internal noise. After about 15 settling breaths, keep your eyes closed for the last couple minutes, and imagine the day as you would like to see it unfold. What, if you could accomplish it, would make you feel satisfied with your day?
2) Create a ‘listening culture’ in house
Offer employees a Monday morning 8:00 a.m. bagel hour as a connecting, brainstorming new ideas and solutions without fear of reprisal. No idea is crazy. Talking through ideas that appear to be out of the ordinary will stir up the creative juices in team members. Encourage top levels of management to be present whenever possible. Reinforce each person’s contribution.
3) Tell back what they said.
Paraphrasing is an old active listening technique, but we’re reluctant to use this powerful tool because we’re not good at it. Paraphrasing or telling back what someone said, in your own words, offers your speaker opportunities for clarification. It also saves you and your customer a lot of time, because with paraphrasing you get the message straight from the get-go. On your way to work, get practice at telling back in your own words what you hear. Listen to a podcast. After about 5-10 minutes, pause the podcast and tell back ALOUD what you remember as much as possible. With practice, you’ll be able to WOW your customers with your conscientiousness, concern and efficiency, which is what customers LOVE. Paraphrasing aloud or silently to yourself during your practice helps to burn in information you want to remember – you’ll be smarter for it!
4) Don’t deny a complaint.
When customers complain, try to hear it as code for I’d really like to continue to do business with you. But, here’s a problem I’m having that can only make your company better. Complaining customers are a key component to your marketing department. This is where paraphrasing comes in handy. You don’t have to agree with them to be a good listener, but you do need to appreciate their reality.
5) Get them talking. Forget yourself!
Just like at the movies, forget yourself. To get customers and co-workers talking, ask open-ended questions like, “What are your objectives?” or “How could we do better for you?” Allow the speaker to pause between thoughts. Let your curiosity take over your tendency to interrupt, give advice, judge their statements. Let their facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice tell you how they really feel about the product or service. You won’t learn anything from hearing your own movie again and again. Read more about the movie mindset in my book “The Zen of Listening.”