I have long known that a key skill to being an effective leader is how well you listen. It also happens to be a key skill for an effective HR professional. In a recent article published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Home Depot CEO Frank Blake was asked what the most important lesson he had learned in the business world. His response was “The importance of listening and really drawing people out in terms of their knowledge, and going down through the organization to get that.” That statement then prompted my question, if the boss says listening is important are you listening to them?
I think we will all agree that many people don’t do a very good job of listening. Parents often don’t and spouses are notorious for not listening. We often value friends for being a “good ear”, but realize that the “good ear” is an all-to-often rarity. Thus I think we can agree that listening, not just hearing, is not a natural skill that automatically comes to people. Just because someone gets promoted to a supervisory or managerial position it does not mean they have the skill set to be an effective listener. In many cases they do not.
That begs the question then, if we recognize it is so important how do we develop and encourage and reward the development of that skill. How many companies ACTUALLY TRAIN managers to be effective listeners? And what does it take? Is a single class sufficient? (That might depend on how well the students were listening.) Does anyone ever rate a manager on his listening skills? What would be the metric for that?
The article does not state whether Home Depot has classes for managers on listening skills or they only make someone a manager if they already has that skill set. But if they do not train managers on listening skills, yet the “boss” says it is so important they why aren’t they listening to him?
Obviously I have more questions than answers, so I am “listening” for your answers.
(Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sunday March 4, 2012 5 Questions for the Boss, by Henry Unger)
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