By Goke Ilesanmi
Have you ever taken time to find out the level of commitment of your team as a manager or leader? If you have, what is the result of your findings – low or high? If the result shows their commitment level is low, this may be due to many reasons. One of them may be your failure to listen to your team. Superior leadership involves listening to your subordinates to get their valuable input, and it is rewarded with their trust in you and their commitment to the job. This boosts your productivity and profitability as a firm. There are two types of listening: listening with the intention of replying; and listening with the intention to understand. Listening to understand must always be our target because without real understanding of another person’s point of view, differences of understanding cannot be resolved amicably while communication breaks down.
Gaining employees’ commitment is far more important than solving individual workplace problems, especially that committed employees will on their own solve many, many more problems than you can. Problems occur in any work team with a predetermined regularity dictated by the difficulty of the work and the extent to which employees are committed to the work. The higher the difficulty and the lower the extent of commitment, the greater the number of problems and the longer each remains before resolution. Highly committed workers continually strive for excellence.
Gateway to employee commitment
Bennet Simonton, author of “Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed” says astute executives and managers know that giving orders is putting the cart before the horse. In other words, it is only by encouraging subordinates to participate in the give-and-take of decision-making that they can be motivated not to leave their brainpower at the door before entering the workplace. Employees’ brainpower is the source of their creativity, productivity, motivation and commitment. For managers and leaders, the skill of listening is the gateway to employee commitment.
It is saddening that many bosses are so busy giving orders that they fail to listen, and subordinates decide to leave their brainpower at the door as they enter the workplace. In this type of work environment, people with suggestions are too often viewed as troublemakers or complainers and employees are regarded as mere numbers. Though orders may be necessary in an emergency, the irony of it all is that orders are probably the weakest action a boss can take because employees consider orders to be disrespectful, clear evidence that the boss does not consider them valued team members.
Ownership culture and sins
Institution of ownership culture or true concept of intrapreneurship is one the strategies that can get employees committed these days. That is, to be committed to work, one must psychologically have ownership of the work, and to have ownership of the work, one must be able to influence what goes on in the workplace. And to influence the workplace, one must be heard and reasonably answered by the boss. So when management listens, subordinates will develop a sense of ownership in their workplace.
Dan Bobinski, co-author of “Living Toad Free: Overcoming Resistance to Motivation” reveals that millions of dollars go down the drain simply due to poor listening. Because listening is so vital to workplace success, let us look at “sins” that get in the way of good verbal communication. These sins are: filtering, second guessing, discounting, relating, rehearsing, forecasting and placating. Let us explain them.
Filtering occurs when a person’s mind is sifting through another’s words and tuning in only when he or she hears agreement. Second guessing refers to a situation where someone usually misses important details because he or she is too busy (a) imagining someone has hidden motives for saying what he is saying, and (b) trying to figure out what those hidden motives might be. Discounting is a ‘sin’ that occurs when a listener lacks respect for a speaker. Relating refers to a situation where someone who continually finds references from his or her own background and compares them to what the speaker is saying.
Rehearsing is the ‘sin’ that blocks much listening as it is simply about waiting for the other speaker to finish what he or she is saying so that one can start talking again. Forecasting refers to a situation where someone takes an idea from the speaker and runs light years ahead of the topic at hand. Forecasting can stem from being bored with the subject matter, or simply because one’s mind automatically thinks ahead. Placating happens when someone agrees with everything anyone else says, just to avoid conflict.
Listening process and tips
You can develop your listening skills by developing the desire to listen; always letting the other person do most of the talking; not interrupting; learning active listening; asking for clarification if needed; and getting used to ‘listening’ for nonverbal messages – body language. Listening requires a lot of practice and concentration. As a boss, you need to listen to your people and since they are the ones who do your work, they are very important people. So listen with total attention and take notes to record what has been said. Pay particular attention to tone of voice and body language since these may send signals more important than the words spoken.
Ed Brodow, a motivational speaker and author of “Negotiate with Confidence” says you must ensure that your own body language and tone of voice clearly send the message that you really care about what your subordinates are saying. When they stop talking, start asking questions to flesh out what you have heard. It is very normal for people to give you less than half of what they know about the problem, so your questions are essential to getting the detail. Then ask them if they might have a suggested solution or know someone who might.
As a manager, make it a habit to elicit your employees’ commitment by attentively listening to them all the time. Listen with the intention to understand, not to hastily reply.
PS: For those making inquiries about our Public Speaking, Business Presentation and Professional Writing Skills programme, please visit the website indicated on this page for details. Till we meet on Wednesday.
GOKE ILESANMI, Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Certified Public Speaker/MC, Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker and Career Management Coach. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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