Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Digital Master Tuning: Listening vs. Telling -How to Strike the right Balance along the Spectrum of Listening and Telling?

 The true leadership may be achieved only if you have both listening and telling organization.

Today’s organizations are hyperconnected and over-complex, the traditional “command-control” management style is no longer effective enough to build a collaborative working environment to embrace cross-functional communication and outside-in customers’ feedback and perspective. So businesses today have to do some self-assessment: Do you have a listening & learning organization, or keeps running as a telling only organization? And how to strike the right balance along the spectrum of listening and telling?

Asking questions can build consensus: Asking questions is crucial to learning for everyone involved. However, without being able to listen with an open mind and heart, just asking questions may fall on "deaf ears" and the sound of crickets might occur if there is no trusting relationship developed. Asking questions, besides telling is an important tool to make a positive change. You can work out what organization you have by looking at the problem-solving style, are all problems solved by the manager in the boardroom with the solution then given to the staff on the floor, or are staff on the floor involved and given a chance to offer their solution. Two ends of the decision style continuum are authoritarian command and control - do what you're told and don't ask any questions, or more open style -where all production floor suggestions are implemented. The latter both requires and inspires trust between production and management.

The best way to improve communications is to stop talking and listen: The biggest communication mistake is to assume it has occurred:  Communication has occurred when the message is received and understood. To have this happen reliably requires a bidirectional and reciprocal cycle of questions and answers. It is a leadership responsibility to provide a safe environment for everyone at any level to question and speak candidly without anxiety or fear. So it is important to build an environment that is conducive to collaboration and consensus decision making. The top project critical success factor in both sequence and importance is to get the right people in a room together. Consensus does not mean everyone agrees, it means that everyone is committed to supporting a decision and wholeheartedly, following a course of action after everyone has been heard and understood, and feels heard and understood. Everyone has a voice and every voice carries weight.

The true leadership may be achieved only if you have both a listening and telling organization: It is important to LISTEN to what the collaborators say. If you do not listen, you will never get the two sides of the story. So you have to learn the hard way that true leadership may be achieved only if you have both a listening and telling organization. If you do not listen, you will lose the goodwill of the collaborators, if you don't tell, your collaborators will not know what is required, and thus, you cannot achieve the results you want to achieve. People down the organization need to be encouraged to speak up, to TELL the truth to power. It is difficult to do and it's often uncomfortable to hear. But leaders recognize the value of the information and what a great advantage to their organization it is to have people with the courage to speak up. Encouraging people to speak, actively listening to what they say, engaging in candid give and take communication, and ensuring that there is no retaliation for raising difficult issues, is a powerful way to build trust and loyalty. A learning organization as a listening organization must be able to use critical thinking well; participants must be able to use logic evidence and avoid personal attacks, appeals to authority, and misrepresentation of ideas.

The “HEAR” model for active listening: When you are in a position of authority you have lots of opportunity to tell and lots of leeway in how to do the telling. It's the default and for some managers (not leaders) the almost exclusive way of doing business. For these people, the message is LISTEN! The HEAR model for active listening may be helpful:
* Hear
* Encourage
* Analyze
* Respond

The difference between dialogue versus discussion lies in the orientation: Basically, Dialogue is “an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement.” Dialogue is more of exploration without winners or losers; discussion is more hierarchical and thus there is a desired outcome. The debate is a discussion involving opposing viewpoints; deliberation; consideration – or to dispute or disagree about. And debate can be a formal contest between competing ideas engaged in with the express goal of winning. But it can be more than that. Think of dialogue as being transformational and collegial; while the discussion is more operational and managerial. There are times and places for each communication format. But, the outcome of a successful discussion would be a decision, the new perspective, knowledge and possibly some discussion on how to use this new perspective and insights. It's great to be a strong advocate for the position you consider best, but that means it becomes more and more important that you're willing to fight fair in the contest of ideas.

So building a learning organization really depends not on style but on substance. If your organization is going to survive through change, it would better be a listening and learning organization. If not, its survival horizon can be really short. One way to ensure the message was received and understood was to just ask "So what are you supposed to do?" Some of the most authoritative organizations are actually very much listening organizations. Some of the seemingly most listening companies are very much telling organizations. It really depends not on style but on substance. But, only a listening organization where dialogue and discussion are possible, there is a difference, by the way -- and sought after by all levels of leadership can develop into the flexible, responsive and agile learning organization.


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