Are you listening?

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I walked into my boss' office the other day to present an idea. He acknowledged my presence, invited me in to sit down to talk, and then promptly started doing everything except what looked like listening. As I began telling him about my idea, he was checking his email, looking at the phone that was ringing, and prompting me to complete my sentences (I stopped every time he quit paying attention) by saying, “I'm listening. Continue.”

Our busy lives invite these kinds of distractions. We don't have time to just sit and listen. What's more is that we may not have time to “not” listen. Surveys show that workplace miscommunications cost an employer in more ways than one. Lowered productivity, increased turnover, and higher stress claims are just the beginning.

Here are some more reasons why taking time to listen is smart.:

Lawsuits. One study showed that patients who did not felt “heard” by their doctor frequently cited this complaint in malpractice suits. Are you listening to your clients?

Misunderstandings. Were you supposed to get back with your client or was the client supposed to get back with you? Are you sure? These misunderstandings can put a valued relationship at risk. Using effective listening skills will help you minimize these instances.

Lowered Morale. Don't alienate your top talent with poor interpersonal skills. Studies show that employees heading out the door often leave because they feel their supervisor didn't listen or had other communication problems.

Lost Respect. People want to be heard. When they perceive you are not listening, and not respecting them, they may feel that you deserve the same respect.

Kill The Idea Mill. Companies implementing employee ideas save thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars each year. If your employees think you aren't listening to their ideas, they may stop presenting them. How will you quantify how much that cost?

Now that you know why you should listen, tomorrow we'll look at what you can do to improve your listening skills.

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