Christopher Lang is an award winning innovator, organizational leader, and technology associate at SC Johnson. This is part 1 of 4 in our series on Listening Well.
As a parent of 6 children, one of the many significant skills I would like each of my kids to learn is how to listen to others. The other day I asked my 6 year old son Nathan a very important question. “Why did God make us with 2 ears and only one mouth?” He shrugged his shoulders and answered, “To keep us balanced, so we can run fast.” Most of us seem to miss the answer to this important question, especially in business.
One of the most common bad management practices is poor listening. This series of blog posts will briefly examine the importance of listening (Part I), characteristics of poor listening (Part II), some reasons why some managers may not listen well (Part III) and how to become a better listener (Part IV).
The Importance of Listening
John Marshall an early American statesman and jurist who shaped American constitutional law said, “To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well." 
Wherever there are humans, there are human relationships. Where there are human relationships there is a need to communicate effectively. One key reason why couples all over the western world pay billions of dollars in marriage counseling every year is to improve communication skills between a husband and a wife. Typically, business involves the relationships of many people working together in a stressful and chaotic environment. The complexity of managing in these environments makes communication and especially active listening skills extremely important in order to be successful as a manager.
If something is going to go wrong in business, it typically has something to do with the communication process and a lack of effective listening. Stephen Covey in his bestselling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People highlights the need for communication with his Habit 5, “Seek First to Understand, Then to be understood." (237-242) Covey’s 5th habit stresses that “communicating is the most important skill in life" One of Covey’s key theses is that individuals have to build the skills of “empathic listening” that inspires “openness and trust." Covey stresses that “empathetic listening” is not passive but aggressive, in order to gain as much understanding as possible.
Christopher Brown writing for Franchise World says that improving listening skills will reduce tensions between communicating parties and build teamwork and trust in a business setting. Active and effective listening is one of the most important skills for managers to be successful at leading, guiding and controlling their business.
What do you think is holding businesses and leaders back from listening well?
This is part 1 of 4 in our series on Listening Well:
- Part I - Importance and Impact
- Part II - Characteristics of Poor Listening
- Part III - Why Most Managers are Poor Listeners
- Part IV - How to Become a Great Listener
Mon, March 19, 2012
by Christopher Lang