Desiring to change directions, a large company hired a new CEO who decided his first mission would be to rid the company of its slackers. During his first week at the helm, the big kahuna noticed a guy leaning against a wall at a company facility he happened to be visiting. Since there were lots of employees present, the CEO wanted them to know he meant business.
He walked up to the guy and asked, “How much money do you make per week?” A little surprised, the young man looked at him and replied, “$400. Why?” The CEO pulled out his wallet, handed the guy $1,600 in cash and yelled, “Here’s four weeks’ pay, now get out and don’t come back!”
Feeling pretty good the CEO looked around the room and asked, “Does anyone want to tell me what that slacker did around here?” After a few seconds of silence one worker spoke up and said; “He is the pizza delivery guy from Papa John’s.”
It’s impossible to learn something when you are talking. You can only learn by observing, asking, and listening. Even Mark Twain once said, “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.”
Hearing occurs without any required action on your part. You push the ON button on your TV remote and your ears begin to hear the sound emanating from the speakers. You don’t have to focus on it, pay attention to it, or decipher the message that is delivered. It’s just noise that registers with your ears, unless you care what is being said and why. That’s what is meant by the involuntary act of hearing.
On the other hand listening is voluntary and requires focus. It means paying attention to the words that are spoken, the context they were used in, the voice inflections transmitted, and even the body language of the speaker. In other words, it means being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages. You must listen with your ears and also with your eyes. For example, if someone tells you that things are going well in their life, but at the same time are gritting their teeth, there is a conflict between the verbal and non-verbal, which probably indicates they don’t mean what they said, but you might not pick up on that without observing the non-verbal signals.
If your sales folks need weekly coaching on relevant topics like effective questioning, dealing with prospect apathy, or avoiding peg leg proposals (among many others), but you don’t want to spend much to accomplish it; you really need to consider doing what Keith Gaudreault does (on that link scroll down to his video).
Not just listening, but active listening is necessary and requires a lot of effort, but also pays big dividends. Here are some suggestions to help position you to become a better and more active listener:
Stop Talking and Prepare to Listen – When somebody else is talking listen to what they are saying without interrupting or finishing their sentences for them. Clear your mind and focus on the speaker and the messages they are communicating. Pauses and short periods of silence should be accepted without being tempted to jump in with questions or comments. Active listening involves giving the other person time to explore their thoughts and feelings, so be sure to give them adequate time for that.
Relax the Speaker – Help the one talking by nodding or using gestures to encourage them to continue. Maintain eye contact without staring in order to show you are listening and understanding what is being said. Interest can be conveyed to the speaker by using both verbal and non-verbal messages such as maintaining eye contact, nodding your head and smiling, agreeing by saying ‘Yes’ or simply ‘Mmm hmm’ to encourage them to continue.
Eliminate Distractions – Avoid unnecessary interruptions as these behaviors send messages to the speaker that you are bored or preoccupied. Refrain from fidgeting, looking at your watch, or picking at your fingernails.
Empathize – Try to understand the other person’s point of view and banish any preconceived ideas. Small smiles can be used to show that the listener is paying attention and is a great way to affirm their messages are being received.
Observe & Telegraph Non-Verbals – Observing gestures, facial expressions, and eye-movements are important for listeners to do, while mirroring of posture and facial expressions is a positive component of active listening.
Now that you have some ideas of what active listeners do, next time in Part II we will explore some common roadblocks you will encounter along the way.
©2014 Robinson Training Solutions, LLC