Listening practices for business

So how does listening manifest in business?  Two basic ways:  listening as the foundation of customer relations, and listening as the structure of management.

Hopefully, we’ve all experienced the business that listens well to us as customers.  Soliciting customer input, attentiveness to customer problems and needs, adapting products to suit customer preferences are all examples of proper business listening.  This extends to affiiates and vendors, as well; the business that’s continually seeking a more perfect segue, that adapts to create win-win deals, and that stays wide open to new opportunities from the outside is a business that’s likely to benefit significantly from its listening practices.

What about listening as it pertains to management, staff relations, and the productivity of your organization?  Managers that are careful listeners will anticipate problems and respond to needs in ample time to steady any dangerous situations.  So listening is an important ongoing daily practice for leadership. 

The performance evaluation is a venerable tradition that’s often neglected, especially in small businesses, but it’s a listening practice that can make the difference between a happy staff and a restless one.  At least every six months, management and staff should share a tete-a-tete, during which feedback is freely given on both sides, and the discussion spills over into personal life as it relates to work.  The opportunity to communicate the simple ‘here’s how I’m doing’ is invaluable, and without this regular ‘checking in,’ managers quickly lose touch.

Now, the truly advanced operation will include even more obvious listening practices.  Here are some outrageous suggestions that could very well become standard in the business of the future:

  • Each day starts with t’ai-chi, yoga, stretches or other physical enlivening of the entire staff together.
  • At several regular intervals throughout the day, a bell is rung and all staff keep silence for one full minute.
  • At least every six months, staff retreats are held off-site, and include meditative, teambuilding, and discussion activities.

Please note that these suggestions apply as well to the solopreneur as to the fully staffed business.

If we plan to survive in relative happiness as the 21st century progresses, we’re going to have to narrow the alienating gap between our existence in business and our lives as individuals.  We can use listening as the path to wholeness as we seek the synthesis of who we are with what we do.

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