Feedback and Listening

Feedback and Listening Receiving and giving feedback is an important part of listening. To ensure a leader is decoding a message as intended, he or she must provide feedback to the speaker to let the speaker know that he or she has been heard and understood. To communicate effectively, a leader should elicit feedback from subordinates, peers, bosses, customers, and competitors so they can gauge how well their message was understood. Another more formal approach leaders may use to provide feedback to employees is through performance appraisals. However, this approach provides limited feedback opportunities because performance appraisal may only be conducted once or twice a year. So leaders should plan to provide positive and negative feedback at intervals more often and consistently to communicate effectively and to improve performance. During these exchanges, leaders should take the opportunity to provide and receive feedback through nonverbal communication. Using and reading nonverbal cues such as eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, and personal appearance provide an added dimension of information that leaders should be aware of and should use to optimize their comprehension of messages received and the effectiveness of messages sent. Leaders face significant challenges in their quest to communicate effectively. For example, leaders must overcome the difficulty of receiving feedback from individuals they rarely meet. For example, in large organizations, leaders may only meet with certain key individuals once per week. It is difficult to develop mutual understanding with such limited exposure. As a result, leaders may find it difficult to read facial and other nonverbal cues unless they develop skills for interpreting these cues. In addition, leaders face challenges associated with obtaining important and essential feedback from customers and competitors. In the case of customers, leaders may use tools to obtain feedback such as surveys, tracking sales targets, complaints, and phone calls. Unfortunately, competitors are not likely to provide such direct feedback; although in some industries, competitors share information that can be obtained through trade journals and through government industry and economic reports. In addition, leaders may obtain feedback about competitors by observing their advertising campaigns.

 

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Leaders must have keen listening skills. They need to hear and understand what their colleagues are saying to ensure they understand corporate objectives. Leaders also need to listen and comprehend the viewpoints of their subordinates to ensure a high level of positive employee morale. Above all, leaders must listen to and understand the needs of their customers and use this knowledge to adapt products and services to ensure customer satisfaction. However, there are several reasons why leaders may not listen well. They may:

• Be too busy. • Believe that they know more than others. • Be power hungry. • Hear only what confirms their own opinion or that of their superior. • Need to learn to listen well.

What is the downside of not listening well? The result of poor listening is miscommunication and misunderstanding. The credibility of leaders may suffer when they do not listen to others. Leaders are unable to perform the leadership role effectively if they do not listen and comprehend what their employees are saying. “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two mouths and one ear.” —Mark Twain “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” —Steven Covey Good listeners are empathic; they listen to hear, understand, and connect to a speaker well to identify with the speaker’s ideas, thoughts, and emotions. Why do leaders need to be empathic listeners? When leaders attempt to understand what speakers say, their empathy demonstrates caring and acceptance. In addition, it enables them to appreciate the speakers’ perspectives, and it helps leaders to avoid making dangerous self-serving assumptions. Although empathic listening is not easy, it is possible and achievable. Leaders should begin to listen empathically by:

• Practicing active listening: Avoiding making judgments or filtering information; active listening reflects complete open-mindedness.

• Empathizing with speakers: In addition to acknowledging facts during listening, leaders should acknowledge the validity of the speakers’ feelings and emotions during listening sessions.

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