The Lost Art Of Inquiring & Listening

by  Scott Mautz  |  Team Dynamics
The Lost Art Of Inquiring & Listening

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Therein lies the problem. In environments where communication is poor, we are either not investing the time it takes to communicate effectively, we believe communication is happening at a sufficient level when in fact it is not, or we are simply not listening well.

Communication all too often breaks down not only because the sender isn’t really sending, but because the receiver isn’t really receiving.

A sense of certainty will ultimately and undoubtedly be compromised in such an environment – certainty that one’s efforts matter, certainty that the receiver of the message cares, and certainty that everyone is on the same page.

The potential for a trickle-down negative impact on meaning, fulfillment, and performance is too great to not get all this right. The solution is to first make the commitment to invest in two-way communication. Then, get to work on the powerful, but lost art of simply inquiring and listening.

Mary Kay Ash built an entire cosmetics empire around a simple philosophy: “Everyone has an invisible sign around their neck that says, ‘make me feel important.'”

At work you can regularly check in and ask how your employees and co-workers are doing and see what is going on in their lives. Use a technique that I call P:60 – which stands for personal sixty seconds. Before the start of a regularly scheduled team meeting, go around the table asking each member to give sixty seconds of personal information, sharing something that’s going on in their lives outside of work that will help others to see more of the whole person.

Similarly, ask Mike Michael about the power of listening – really listening – to facilitate high-quality communication and a corresponding high-quality result. Mike is president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank’s largest region. The bank went through a massive system conversion in 2013, condensing twenty-four types of checking accounts down into five.

How could the bank keep the lines of communication open and ensure the net result maximally benefited the customer? Michael harnessed his reputation for being a genuine, caring listener and leader and took it to a whole new level. He and his retail team launched a listening exercise conducted on a scale never seen before in the industry. They talked and listened to over 300,000 people, face to face.

They delved into life status and life objectives so that they could figure out the best ways to help. The result was an organization that’s much more practiced in the art of carefully receiving communications, that is unequivocally certain about its client’s needs, and that now has a much happier client base.

When you commit to the practice of inquiring and listening, you too can create a much happier client base- your employees and co-workers.

When have you really felt your words were being received? What difference did it make?
Photo Credit: Fotolia idildemir

About The Author

Articles By scott-mautz
Scott Mautz is author of Make It Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning , which was just named a “Best Book of 2015” by Soundview BusinessBooks. He’s also an award winning keynote speaker, and a 20+ year veteran of Procter & Gamble, having run several thriving, multi-billion dollar divisions along the way. Connect with Scott at www.makeitmatterbook.com.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

John Smith  |  21 Oct 2015  |  Reply

HI, Scott – fascinating post:)

I believe this statement captures the issue quite well: “Communication all too often breaks down not only because the sender isn’t really sending, but because the receiver isn’t really receiving.”

As they say, it takes two to Tango and it also takes two to communicate effectively. Otherwise someone is just preaching and someone else is just ignoring.

I have often felt that my words were not being heard, but when you throw in the element of considering the hearer’s position, I am not able to recall as many instances. This is probably NOT because they are fewer, but rather that I am just not attuned to think about the “receiver” end of things.

I remember once at a call center in the Southwest, I was doing a corporate “canned” training session and realized after the first hour that the group of front line supervisors were not engaged … at all.

After a brief struggle with my sense of duty to the organization to continue the session, I broke training and started asking questions, which resulted eventually in a very productive discussion about the realities of their work environment. What I was selling would not work for them, at least in the way I was selling it. The participants were remarkably candid, once they understood I really wanted to hear from them.

The bottom line was a much revised workshop for the rest of that day, engaged and happier participants, with just a slight ruffling of feathers back at headquarters over my mid-workshop course correction.

The difference was in the ongoing application and willingness to continue to try to implement the techniques from the workshop in their work environment, and a much improved ability to trouble-shoot their own supervisory behaviors.

By the way, the topic of the workshop was “Coaching in the Workplace”:)


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