A small business owner Lillian once told me this story. Her company was in the final stages of launching a new product. Things were hectic and there was a lot of planning. As they got ready to launch, Lillian got more and more worried. She was worried that she was missing something.
Then Lillian got an idea. They had just hired a new person, who obviously didn’t know anything about the new product. She asked to speak to him. When he got to her office, Lillian proceeded to explain everything about the new product to him. All he had to do was be quiet and listen. In other words, just be a sounding board. After she was done, she felt more confident about the preparations.
Lillian liked to tell this story. She had found a way to cross check her work through a fresh perspective. It was resourceful and she was proud of it. So when I told her she basically had to find a new hire to listen to her because her regular employees couldn’t, she paused for a second and admitted, “Yes, and it’s a shame!”
Letting people talk about complicated projects is of course just one example of how listening helps in the workplace. We need to listen so people can talk about all the interesting things that happen at work. The best ideas and honest admissions are often fragile and easily choked off by bad listening. Our everyday work experiences are also worth being heard. We have to listen if we want people to talk more comprehensively, insightfully, and creatively. We have to give people the opportunity to talk about concerns, ideas, dull routines, false starts, blind alleys, processes, execution, successes, and lessons learned.
The beauty of listening even at the most simple level is that it helps people think out loud. It is indeed a shame if people fail to speak because we don’t know how to listen. It’s time we recognize how listening can give clarity, and so much more to our thoughts. It’s time we address the misconceptions about listening and learn its subtle power. After all, you deserve to be heard at work.