Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Listening....REALLY Listening

Today I was approached by someone who asked me to help him with his training plan. He held a key position, not by virtue of rank but by how much his work affected that of others in the division. I was happy to look over the list of training programs and courses he was thinking of taking over the next 3 years. The first thing that hit me was, the training was all over the place. Each course sounded good by itself, however the first question that came to mind was “Putting them all together, how will this help him get where he wants to go?”

I asked him to explain his thought process….why he chose these courses in the first place and in this combination. Granted, the layout of the course listings wasn’t very clear and yes, all courses were grouped into categories but as one description flowed into another, and headings easily missed, it was easy to misunderstand the focus of the trainings.

Pruning down the list wasn’t difficult, especially since many of the courses were inappropriate for what he did or where he wanted to go in the future. After cutting back, there were 8 left; not a huge number of courses to be taken over a three year period. The hardest part for him was prioritizing. When he asked me which I thought was most important; which of all the courses would give him the best return on time and investment, it was simple for me to choose. For him, it was easy to be seduced by all the promises that were made with regards to the benefits of each course.

The most important skill to have or hone is listening. Real, open listening; effective listening, is not just downloading the information another has to say only if it is in congruence with your opinions and ways of thinking. It’s truly listening….hearing and processing what that person has verbalised. Once you have that skill down pat, everything is easier. You learn more, are open to other ways and means and perspectives. If he only took one training that would be the one I’d choose for him. Second to that is effective communication. If you can’t articulate what you want or need then no one will be able to understand it either and you’ll be wasting a heck of a lot of time and energy explaining yourself. Even then it’s a toss-up whether or not you’ll get the desired results.

One goes hand in hand with another.

So if you read a course description that spouts something about learning better communication skills and the description goes on about how you get along with others, learn dispute or conflict resolution etc, then that’s more in the realm of inter-personal relations, not communication The best way one can communicate in the workplace is to remove the personal factor. Speak to the facts, the truth of a situation and then be clear, articulate and concise. Ask for clarification and when you do ask a question, be quiet and open to hearing the answer.

That’ll be the biggest gift you could ever give yourself, and others.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome subscriber from Sweden! 35 countries and counting! Pull up a chair, read away and feel free to comment, share and join the conversation!

No comments: