Mindful listening in the workplace saves time and money, improves productivity and creates employee AND customer loyalty. It is one of my Core Four skills and routines that every founder needs to succeed. Here are five ways you can start to benefit from the mindful listening mindset today:
1) “Set your mind” first thing every morning.
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 mind, notice them, let them pass 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. Resolve to give your personal soap operas a back seat for the next 8 hours. Ponder the notion that what will make your day today is the ROI derived from giving employees and customers what they REALLY want – appreciation and respect.
2) Create a ‘listening culture’ in house
Offer employees a Monday morning bagel hour, an 8:00 a.m. huddle to get to know each other, to brainstorm new ideas and solutions without fear of reprisal. No idea is crazy. In fact, 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, or telling back what someone said is a powerful tool. People are reluctant to “tell back” 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. Practice paraphrasing on your way to work. 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 I’d really like to continue to do business with you. But, here’s a problem that I’m having that can only make your company better. Complaining customers are a key components to your marketing department. This is where paraphrasing can come 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 people 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 give advice, judge their statements or interrupt. 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.”