How Soft is Listening?

We’ve seen that “Hard Number” business outcomes are directly related to Employee Engagement. Now we want to explore what Listening has to do with all of it. Any element of Employee Engagement must involve interaction between employees and especially between employees and their immediate supervisor. Interaction implies conversation or dialogue which, in turn, implies that someone is talking and someone (hopefully) is listening.

Remember the 12

Remember the Gallup organization’s 12 questions from my last post? Three of them are directly related to the listening abilities of managers.

#3 Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day? – How does the boss know what someone’s best at? This question presupposes observation and dialog between the employee and the boss.

#5 Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person? – Caring is often communicated through listening

#7 At work, do my opinions seem to count? – No one would even know what an employee’s opinions are without listening.

In their book, First, Break all the Rules, the authors show which of all 12 questions tie to which of the five business outcomes: Profit, Safety, Productivity, Customer Loyalty, and Employee Retention. Most tie to more than one. Question number 5 “Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?” is one of only two that directly ties to all desired outcomes. The other two listening questions are linked to customer satisfaction, profitability and productivity. Seem important?

We’ve all heard the saying, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Think about the people in your life who have made the biggest impact on you. I’m talking about people you know personally. What was it about them that was so important to you? I’d be willing to bet you felt like they cared about you, they took a personal interest in you. How did you know they cared? How did you know they were interested in you? Did they understand you? Did they support your dreams and passions? How did they come to understand you and know your dreams and passions? They Listened.

How Do You Deliver Results?

Organizations often develop programs, have contests, and deliver edicts designed to improve Safety, Customer Loyalty, Productivity, Employee Retention and Profitability with some success. Certainly they will have more success than organizations that ignore any of those metrics. But, most organizations focus on those things. So, what makes the difference between highly successful and just average organizations? The “Soft Stuff.”

So, here’s a question. If the “Soft Stuff” like opinions, caring, and listening, are required to deliver the hard numbers, does that make the “Soft Stuff” hard stuff? Maybe not according to the strict definitions of business measures, but for many business leaders it is very hard stuff (read “difficult”). Listening is a skill. Like any other challenging skill you’ve learned to become a leader, it can be learned.

What’s the value of Listening? If Employee Engagement is the heart of Organizational performance then Listening is the life-blood of Employee Engagement.

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