Listening has been studied for decades, but Harvard Business Review recently published a very interesting review of research entitled The Power of Listening in Helping People Change. They begin with the discovery that performance feedback, both positive and negative, can actually cause performance to decline. This led the authors to explore whether a different approach, asking questions and listening, could create a different outcome. Their premise was feedback is telling employees that they need to change, whereas listening and asking questions might make them want to change.
What they learned was that listening seems to make an employee less anxious, more self-aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses, and more willing to reflect in a non-defensive manner. Basically, in a feedback conversation, listening to employees talk about their own experiences first can make the whole process more productive because they feel psychologically safe and less defensive.
Of course there are reasons managers don’t listen as they should, and a few of them are presented in this article. They include loss of power, the fact listening consumes time and effort, and fear of change. These are each well described and really do provide some food for thought.
I hope you will take a few minutes to read this article, including the tips for becoming a better listener offered at the end. You will have heard the list before, but you might not have really listened.
To read the full article, you can go to https://hbr.org/2018/05/the-power-of-listening-in-helping-people-change?autocomplete=true