I had the privilege recently to speak at the 2015 Retail Merchandising & Marketing Conference and met amazing leaders from around the world – all of them from the retail industry. I was speaking on the topic, “Team Building Meets Customer Service.” The bottom line being that any organization’s level of service and ultimately their success, is directly tied to the culture of the company.
Culture is defined as the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize an institution or organization. It picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. In fact, culture guides discretionary behavior, and tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room – which is most of the time.
And just to give you some context as to why culture matters, studies have shown that the way people feel about their work environment and the culture of an organization can account for nearly 30% of business performance.
Last week, I shared the first strategy of my four-part series on strategies to help build a stronger, more sustainable culture in your organization. Here is the second strategy:
2. Listen Generously.
This one is so obvious that it’s easy to overlook. But think about how hard it is to actually do it. We are bombarded throughout our day with so much input – from the demands of our jobs, to the daily to-do lists, to the demands of customers and employees, and the seemingly endless pings, buzzes, and rings of our phones, computers, and other electronic devices – all competing for our valuable and all-too-scarce time and attention.
With all that comes a tendency to focus more on getting our point across than actually hearing what the other person is saying. We listen to respond rather than to understand. And in our rush to be heard, the disturbing truth is that we only tend to remember 25-50% of what we hear. (And we hope it’s the most important 25-50%!)
But when we do take the time and make the effort to listen to understand, something magical happens – especially for the person who’s speaking. It is jarring for us to realize that we’re being seen and heard. And it’s one of our most fundamental needs as human beings. We tell ourselves we’ve got too much to do and don’t have the time to do it. The truth is, you don’t have the time NOT to listen.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
– Bryant H. McGill
The invitation here is to practice! We do so little actual listening that it’s become a lost art. Slow yourself down. Stop thinking about your response and focus your attention on the person across from you. Listen not only for their words, but their emotions as well. Notice what they say and how they say it; and also listen for what they don’t say.
True listening requires empathy, clarification, and collaboration. At this level, you are unattached to self, your own agenda, your own thoughts, or opinions. You’re no longer trying to figure out the next move. Rather, you notice the tone, pace, and feelings being expressed. You follow the other person’s lead, actively listening and checking.
The truth is if you want to improve any area of your life, learning to listen more effectively is the single most important thing you can do. And when it comes to building a supportive culture, it’s an indispensable piece of the puzzle.
Check out part three to learn more about creating a culture that inspires your teams and leads to greater success.
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Kevin Ciccotti, Human Factor Formula
Helping companies create sustainable, effective teams that are committed to the success of their projects, the organization, and the individuals with whom they work