Ears Wide Open

I have often spoken about the importance of developing listening skills. The ability (or sheer willingness) to listen, analyze and respond to information is a skill set that can catapult one’s station into super-stardom. It’s a gift that few master, but the better you listen, the better your ability to make sound decisions. But anyone can learn.

Listen to detect winds of change

How are you learning about changes in the marketplace, regulatory agencies, etc.? The better connected with the entities that can impact your business, the better you can steer your ship if there’s an iceberg in your path. You may want to appoint trusted/capable leaders to help you listen. Who’s in tune with what’s going on in Washington? How can you get insights and feedback from marketing/sales teams? Try this: create lunch-and-tell sessions, where teams can share intelligence, suggestions, even customer feedback from the field. Tip: have a few insights of your own to share.

Listen to improve employee engagement

If your interest in employees is visible, you’d be surprised at how they will return the favor. Create platforms and events to provide two-way dialogue, whereby employees can voice their concerns, observations, etc. Face to face time with employees goes a long way, but in the interest of time there are other ways to get feedback. Online polls and surveys, for instance, can at least tell you where to start to probe for more in-depth issues.

Listening to enhance social media reach

I feel comfortable suggesting that whatever your industry, services, etc., you can gain access to your target market using social media. Social media experts (of which I have no claim) commonly recommend listening as a critical component of the social networking strategy.This presentation on Slideshare by Tirza Hollenhorst and Barrett Michael (ifpeople.net) is a great overview for how to create a smart social media plan. It’s chuck-full of listening sites to help you monitor your brand presence online. I recommend a read/skim.