Art and Architecture of listening

An MBA ProgramHow many times people have lectured you on how well do you listen? Did you know the difference between hearing and listening? How many of us practice active listening? Have you ever imagine, a setup of a call center, they can’t not see the clients who call them, they had to rely on their listening skills to hear and understand what the caller wanted us to do for them. Sometimes due to network problem many of them are not able to understand us, but because of their active listening skill they help us around and crack revenue for the company.

All of us need to be good listeners and more importantly to be an active listener in all aspects of our lives; I believe MBA institute is the platform to imbibe this skill as people from diverse culture background, different intensity, and passion comes together to make it big. We often forget to learn from each other and when we grow older in life we don’t understand what others (spouse, kids, parents, friends, coworkers and leaders) are asking of us.

When we look at our professional lives and career paths, we seldom consider listening as part of the equation. Our performance reviews may touch on presentation skills, but rarely do our leaders rate listening effective-ness. These days business leaders carefully evaluate: What kind of ROI will this project deliver? What are the tradeoffs? But, I rarely hear decision-makers ask: How well are you listening, and to whom?

If we consider some basic facts around listening, the picture gets dimmer. To quote- Last year, a Wall Street Journal article reported that researchers suspect listening skills are in decline due to the multi-tasking distractions of our world. Amazingly, the article’s point of reference is a 1987 study that showed people could recall “only around 10% of what was said in a face-to-face conversation after a brief distraction.” This same article pointed to a more recent study from 2011 that found the “more powerful the listener, the more likely he is to judge or dismiss advice from others.”

From my perspective, these are risky findings. Listening is a critical business skill which from a very early stage of a professional life a MBA student should imbibe. Unfortunately, it’s often perceived as something passive or easily done. However, listening needs to be encouraged practiced and honed; it needs to be built into the architecture of our MBA program as well and I’m glad that professor at IBS works on it. Here are three reasons why everyone should emphasize on their listening skills:

  1. In today’s troublesome business environment, organization weights that we listen in order to understand its intricacies and energetic forces to succeed.

The pace of change is hurrying exponentially. New and emerging technologies are constantly revolutionizing the way we consume things from home energy to personal shopping; from healthcare to security; from savings to security, from privacy to socializing. It is critical for business leaders to understand the implications of our interconnected, digital society. What are our customers’ pain points of today and tomorrow? What is the next big thing? What are its associated benefits; and risks? These answers come from listening carefully across our entire organization and to external sources; which can help individual and organization to grow.

MBA Graduates

  1. Through effective listening we could connect the dots, spot the trends and understand the signals.

In today’s job setup managers continually seek ways to more efficiently and effectively listen to our surrounding landscape. To expand their operation, e-commerce companies meets daily with venture capitalists to share their ideas and understand the challenges they’re passionate about solving. They speak with customers and colleagues, with other companies, large and small, with investors, incubators and academics. By, engaging across a broad set of relevant audiences, focus group and market research, businesses gets empowered and make decision to notice patterns and understand tomorrow’s trends, potential challenges and new possibilities. This exercise isn’t easy; it re-quires rigor, openness to what you’re hearing and, most importantly, practicing good listening.

  1. Good listening opens organization to new potentials, and transfers them beyond traditional management restraints.

In traditional organizational structures, leaders seldom work across silos. Consequently it’s often the same people delivering updates and recommendations. Now days many companies are taking steps to move away from this approach to a structured pyramid approach. I advise young MBA graduates to join companies, by evaluating how information and in-sights; flows across the organization. Are there better ways you can be listening? Are there different teams you should be working with? Opening yourself up to new ideas can help you discover a new and valuable perspective for your future.

So often we want to feel like we have all the answers. As our world changes more and more dramatically, one reaction is to hold on tighter and tighter to our beliefs. However, if we find the courage to pause and listen, if we open ourselves up to understanding our landscape more deeply, we can make better decisions. Here are the “5 Traits of Good Listening” that I’m focused on cultivating:

  • Be Present – It’s impossible to be a good listener if you’re thinking about your “to do” list or your next meeting. Focus on hearing what the other person has shared. Try summarizing what you’ve heard to ensure you‘ve absorbed it.
  • Practice – Practice leaving your inclinations behind. Practice not immediately offering a solution or a suggestion to what you’ve heard. Practice listening, and be comfortable with silence if someone pauses give time. Good listening requires continual practice.
  • Ask Questions – Cultivate your inner curiosity-ty and seek to learn more. Ask questions – not in a way that shows off your knowledge – but more to really understand what someone is sharing and to demonstrate that you’re interested in what they’re sharing.
  • Be Open – Embrace a willingness to hear from different and unexpected sources; don’t ignore someone you aren’t familiar with. Determine if you’re discounting something that’s difficult to hear, or selectively editing details – we’re all guilty of this sometimes.
  • Pause – Take a moment and try listening to your intuition, to your gut. Is there some-thing you’ve picked up on, a signal that you need to pay more attention to, evaluate and understand? Is there something missing? Try listening for what hasn’t been said

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

All the best

Contributed by Vaibhav Chandra (Class of 2009, IBS HYDERABAD)

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