I first heard the expression “You have two ears and one mouth” from a Sales Manager and proud Yorkshire man called Ian – so I’d always assumed it was something of a Yorkshire proverb. Later I discovered the saying probably had its origins not in Yorkshire but in another God’s own County some 3,000 miles away; in a letter written by a man called James 2,000 years earlier; “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger” – now there’s a challenge!
In the Millennial age of Social Media, the emphasis is on the posting (giving) rather than on the listening (receiving).
In this age of engagement, listening is vital, without listening how can you possibly engage?
Customer Engagement, Customer Relationship Management, Voice of the Customer ergo Employee Engagement, Employee Relationship, Voice of the Employee… you get the gist.
When you actively listen as the Chinese character for listen translates, “with your eyes, ears, mind, heart” you’ll learn far more than when you’re talking.
Here are two instances when remembering to listen helped me to save a customer worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and a marketing campaign thousands of pounds in material costs.
#1 Hearing the aside
Faced with fines from a major retailer for late deliveries and part orders, along with increased admin costs from the related invoice issues, we were in danger of losing business that had taken 3 years to secure. I got everyone involved with servicing the customer round the table to walk the customer journey and we managed to identify a few small process issues, but it was the whispered aside “but if there’s not enough I take them from x” that revealed we had some KPIs that were working against each other.
#2 The silent listener
As a youngish Marketing Manager, I was working on a launch that was running late, and when my boss asked to see the target audience feedback on the retail point of sale, I had to buy time, divert budget and hastily organise focus groups. The first of which I attended in the role of sample display builder, which I sat behind during the group session as a silent listener; out of sight and in silence listening to the group’s views and opinions. Based on the “I wouldn’t stop and look at that stand but my husband would” I changed the style and imagery, and I like to believe significantly changed the sales.
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” The Dalai Lama XIV
So, the Golden Rule for Leaders is to “listen twice as much as you expect others to listen to you”