The business world is constantly changing. Fewer people spend their whole careers at the same company. People are able to work from home. The economy is truly global. Throughout the evolution, one thing has remained the single most important: communication. You have to deliver your message in a way your target audience can grasp it. And the only way to get your team to listen to you - is to be a great listener yourself.
Dina Dwyer-Owens believes listening is a skill to be learned and developed. At every stage of her impressive corporate career, Dwyer-Owens refined her listening abilities. As a result, she helped grow the Dwyer Group to 20 service brands and $1.5 billion in sales across their 2,800 locations. Today, she is Brand Ambassador and Board Member of the Dwyer Group, a best-selling author, and a motivational speaker. She was also named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
I've written before about how her company turns values into sales, and I couldn't wait to share more of her wisdom. Here are Dwyer-Owens' tips to becoming a better listener and better boss:
1. Be Trustworthy
You may think your meeting just began, but in reality, the conversation started a long time ago. Communication is an ongoing exchange, and "Trust begins at the top," Dwyer-Owens asserts. When you canceled an appointment with a junior colleague at the last minute and without giving a reason, you also suggested that you can't be relied upon. When you talked over an associate at a meeting, you implied you aren't interested in hearing other ideas. Good faith must exist among your team, between leadership and employees, and with your customers. "That kind of trust is at the heart of a good reputation," Dwyer-Owens says. Distrust poisons everything around it.
2. Acknowledge the Right to Perspective
You won't agree with everyone, and that's ok. "Acknowledge that everyone has the right to his or her own perspective," advises Dwyer-Owens. Don't take disagreement personally. Instead, give the idea a chance, she says, explaining, "Listening to others with different values and different lives can open you up to new opportunities, new insight and even new relationships." You may never agree, but Dwyer-Owens believes that "Being an authentic leader means being able to not only see past the differences but also being able to accept them." Ultimately, it's about mutual respect.
3. Listen to Understand - Not to Respond
Don't assume you know what the other person is going to say. "What is being said is important to the speaker," reminds Dwyer-Owens. She explains, "It takes a lot of courage for an employee in a non-leadership position to approach a C-level and bring forth ideas on how to make the company better. And while the response may be 'Let me take this to the leadership team and hash it out,' you never want them to feel as if they aren't being listened to." Even if you dislike the idea, give the attention the employee deserves. Dwyer says, "When employees don't believe you're listening to their ideas, they won't bring them to you anymore and you won't continue to grow as an organization." So give everyone a thorough listening. They may surprise you!
4. Don't Encourage Negativity
Seriously, don't gossip. "There is no such thing as a harmless rumor," Dwyer-Owens warns. She explains, "Workplace bullies do exist, and the list of effects it has on the company is long, including: decreased employee trust, decreased morale, dysfunctional teams, low-quality work, and increased employee absences." Dwyer-Owens believes the Golden Rule begins with trust. She says, "Not speaking behind someone's back in ways that you would not speak to their face shows your true mark of integrity, honesty, and respect; not only to your co-workers, but also to the company as a whole." Contribute positivity!