Listening Builds Relationships

Imagine yourself in a sandwich shop and you’re at the register.  The employee behind the counter has just asked for your order.  The conversation goes as follows:

You:  “I’d like a turkey on wheat with lettuce and tomato only.” 

Employee: “Do you want mayonnaise or mustard on that?”

You:  “No, just lettuce and tomato.”

Employee:  “What kind of cheese would you like?”

You:  “I don’t want cheese.  I only want lettuce and tomato.”

Employee:  “It comes with cheese, though.  Are you sure you don’t want cheese?”

This scenario happens to me on a regular basis.  I don’t like anything on my sandwiches other than lettuce and tomato.  Period.   Yet, time and time again, I get challenged on my request.  This has become an ongoing joke with some of my friends.  They wait in anticipation about the conversation that is about to unfold every time I order a sandwich.   

Perhaps you feel the order taker in the scenario above is only trying to add value.  I can buy that, but only to an extent.   By the second time I state, “Just lettuce and tomato,” the adding value argument is completely off the table.  Now you just aren’t listening.

Does the dialogue, as indicated in my conversation with the order taker at the sandwich shop, sound at all familiar?  It may not happen to you at a sandwich shop, but what about at work?  I have lost count of how many times I hear someone say, “Oh, I heard you say that, but I thought you meant something else” or “I never heard that.”   

There is a trend bubbling in the workplace -  we don’t LISTEN.  I know, you’re thinking that statement doesn’t apply to you.  I bet you even mumbled, “Hey, I do listen!”  Now, here comes the point in my article where I offend you.  You don’t listen.  At least, not as much as you could or should.   It is that failure to listen that significantly impacts your client’s overall experience. 

Our listening skills seem to be getting worse over time as we find ourselves in a work setting where we must move quickly to keep pace with our respective workloads.   Not to mention the constant interruptions from email, IM, smartphones, in addition to all the normal daily things that make us switch gears in a heartbeat.  This is especially true for human resources departments.  We are stretched in so many different directions.  We wanted the strategic piece of the pie and we got it.  The problem is we still have the tactical!  There is a lot of work to be done and you have to be hyper-productive in order to stay afloat.  This pressure to get things done can impact listening throughout HR.

Listening can produce enormous, positive gains for you and your team.  The ability to listen and listen well can help catapult your team to one that is viewed as providing unparalleled customer service.   Why?  Listening builds relationships.  If people realize they are being heard, you quickly become a trusted associate to them and you can believe they aren’t getting that same experience much anywhere else.   In HR, you are on the front line of your employees' experience. 

So, my advice to you is to take a deep breath and, before you talk, listen.  You can be assured the manager asking you for that “lettuce and tomato only” sandwich is being specific.  Listen, give it to them, and they will be absolutely delighted.   

Here are a few worthwhile articles to get you and your team started on the path to becoming a listening organization:


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