Are you really paying attention when an employee is speaking to you or are you mentally preparing the response that will pacify or make them go away? Stephen R Covey once wrote, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” In order to develop truly effective employee recognition programs, you’ll want to be sure you are listening to understand both employee needs and motivations.
The Importance of Not Filtering Employee Input
Everyone does it. The world we live in is filled with loud music, social media gossip, and the assault of visual images on large screen TVs. Beeps and ring tones alert us to text messages, emails, and phone calls. For an administrator or executive, the concept of “closed door” has been replaced by “shared space” and “home offices” where spouses, children, and pets compete for attention. Not surprisingly, all of this noise causes the human mind to put up walls and create filters.
It’s important to examine all of that noise and make sure you’re filtering what you don’t need and paying attention to what you do. A recent Meghan Biro article published in Forbes titled “5 Leadership Lessons: Listen Learn, Lead” stresses the importance of filter prioritization in “Step 1: Take an Input Inventory”. It’s suggested that you identify what’s relevant by creating an itemized list of what you’re subjected to audibly and visually. Knowing exactly what you see and hear each day can help you create filters that won’t screen out useful input or information.
Learning to Listen takes Practice
Turn off all electronics for a moment and close your eyes. Now call your phone and leave a voice-mail with a list of everything you hear, keeping your eyes closed while you do it. Open your eyes and play the message back. Can you still hear all of what you itemized on the list or do you need to strain your senses to pick out those same sounds again? Pun intended, this exercise can be a real “eye-opener” for you.
It’s a common misconception that blind people have better hearing because their brains compensate for the lack of sight. A study in The Journal of Neuroscience seems to support this, but another study published years earlier in PsyBlog contradicts that conclusion. It suggests that blind people simply process auditory information more effectively. What does your experience in this exercise suggest?
Active Listening and Employee Recognition
Active listening is a technique that “requires the listener to feed back what they hear to the speaker”. In the previous section we outlined a listening exercise that doesn’t require a speaker. Now try it with another human being. Better yet, spend time listening, really listening, to what employees have to say. This can be done one on one or in a group setting where you simply pay attention to what’s being said in casual conversation.
There’s a five-step program listed in Mind Tools that outlines how active listening is supposed to work. If you’re planning employee recognition programs, it is extremely important to listen to what your employees have to say. Be sure to involve them in your recognition planning. Their words are insight into their thoughts and indicators of what incentives would work best to improve employee engagement and productivity. Oops, we used that word – productivity – one of the “p” words. The other one is “profits”. Those tend to go up when you pay attention also. Are you listening now?
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