03 May 2021

How to create a listening culture

Listening is one of the easiest ways to show respect to customers, employees or family members. It says that you care, are interested in the other person, and value their opinion and relationship. Does your business have a listening culture?

A culture of listening creates strong and trusting relationships, and if done well, will encourage creativity and more thoughtful and empowered ideas. The best way to create a culture of listening is to start at the top, letting it cascade down through your organization and out to your customers. In short, employees who are listened to will listen to others, including colleagues and customers. Businesses that listen to their customers are more energised, agile, successful, and profitable. Collaboration and team synergies are also part of a listening organization.

Here are a few ways to instill a listening culture within your business:

  1. Listen to Understand, Not to Respond:

When we focus on listening alone, we truly process, engage and embrace others’ ideas. This makes people feel more trusted and affirmed and will encourage more open and transparent communication. On the other hand, when we listen only with the intent of responding, we stop listening part way through and begin to formulate our next comment. This destroys the trust and inhibits the stream of communication. A good tip is to vocalise that you intend to just listen and ask questions but not to respond or formulate any comments until later. This puts both people into a good communication mode.

  1. Ask Your Employees for Feedback:

One way to encourage good and healthy feedback and communication is to ask for it. Ask your teams and employees what they think; support them in speaking up about things and reward those who challenge your ideas or debate your thoughts, not least by engaging their ideas meaningfully. Refer to a colleague’s ideas publicly so others can see that you are being honest about your desire to have feedback and that you are sincerely interested in listening to what they say.

  1. Encourage Employees to Listen to Each Other:

One way to encourage listening is to ask people what they just heard and what they think. It will sharpen their listening skills while also encouraging thoughtful response. Furthermore, asking employees to tell you their thoughts about what they just heard also signals that you value their input and ideas, demonstrating how this can be done among the employees themselves.

  1. Ask Your Customers for Feedback:

When your employees know that feedback from customers is important and encouraged, they will become more willing to ask for it. Mutual communication is accelerated and deepened when people work in a supportive and listening culture and can feel secure in asking for and receiving feedback from all sources. “How can we make your work easier?” or “How might we serve you better?” is music to most customers’ ears. Also, strengthen employees’ listening skills by observing who seems to listen to others and openly complimenting those skills so others can see that they are valued.

Having a listening culture is one of the most important things for any business. Without it, the business is limited only by the thoughts and skills of the leadership. Encourage listening, practice it often, and reward it throughout your organisation. If you have read this far…thank you for listening!

How we listen is part of consciously channelling our privilege.  At BP we are undertaking ground breaking research into how privilege impacts equity and inclusion at work.

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