My sweet grampa, who came over from ‘the old country’ was fond of saying, “It’s a doggy, doggy world.”  It didn’t matter how many times my mom would correct him, “Pop, you are saying it wrong.  It’s a dog eat dog world,” to which he would respond, “That’s what I said, it’s a doggy, doggy world.”  For those of you reading this, who know me, this may offer some insights into my childhood. 

My grandfather passed on many, many years ago, but it’s a dialog I still hear replayed often in my head.  Why?  I think it’s the perfect example of people talking to each other, but not really hearing what the other was saying.  This challenge plagues us in a business environment and has an impact on many aspects of employee engagement and employee recognition programs.  After all, how many of you reading this have developed an employee recognition program, based upon input from employees, only to still hear people complaining? 

As a best practice, listening often gets overlooked.  We talk about communications, surveys, focus groups, etc., but without truly hearing, a program may struggle, even with the best of intentions.  Here are some best practices around listening skills that will help your program be more relevant and therefore, more successful.

  1. Don’t judge.  You’ve asked for input, now it’s important to keep an open mind and let the person share their thoughts without you jumping to a conclusion.  You are in a fact-finding stage, which requires you to stay completely neutral.
  2. Don’t interrupt.  When input is being shared, just let it be shared.  Don’t offer advice on other ways something could have been handled.  Just listen.  You can ask questions, but only to clarify and wait until the person has finished sharing.
  3. Be aware of your body language.  Sit quietly as input is being shared.  Don’t fidget and don’t look away.  It’s important to the person sharing that they feel heard.
  4. Share feedback. During the conversation, share back what you have been told to make sure you and the employee are on the same page.  After all, ‘a dog eat dog world’ and ‘a doggy, doggy world’ sound surprisingly similar, but they will not get you to the same finish line.

Listening skills are an important skillset in a business environment and one that is often overlooked.  According to a Fast Company article, Why listening may be the most important skill to hire for, listening can truly improve workplace performance and will definitely improve the effectiveness of your corporate incentive programs.

Want more information on employee recognition programs?  Send me a note.

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