Listen Up, Class!
The Truth about Listening Skills in Corporate America
They happen every day. In fact, you might be in one right now.
There are business meetings, appointments, staff meetings, vision meetings, brainstorming sessions, and the list goes on! Like them or not, the corporate America seems to run on them. Are the listening skills in corporate America keeping pace with the number of meetings the average employee attends?
According to the mathematicians at Lucid Meetings, mid-level employees attend an average of 8, 1 hour meetings per week. That means that in a typical week, an employee with have at least 1 meeting every day. And this number only increases with higher paying positions.
Now, 8 hours may not seem like a lot, but let’s put this into perspective. Even the most rigorous courses at a university require only 3 hours of in-class time per week.
Okay, so 8 hours might be a lot, but regular meeting means a more informed, productive, and focused workforce…right?
According to One Desk, 20% of an employee’s time is spent outside of meetings looking up internal information and tracking down colleagues for help. This counts for an additional 8 HOURS of time spent on gathering information.
And, that’s not all.
,According to William Schiemann, author of Performance Management: Putting Research Into Action, listening skills in corporate America might be lacking. His research found that only 14% of the organizations he polled report that their employees have a good understanding of their company’s strategy, goals, and direction.
Although personnel is required to spend 8 hours in meetings per week, they still don’t know some basic information. That in itself speaks volumes to the listening skills in corporate America.
Meetings get a bad reputation for wasting time and being generally unproductive. Many studies have been done about the general feeling about meetings, resulting in the response of the Clarizen 2015 study, “almost 50% of people claimed they prefer getting a mullet to status meetings”. Meetings are loathed by managers and employees alike.
So, should we do away with them?
So, what does all this mean?
Meetings are an effective way to present information! However, most admit they hate meetings.
Why do we not see better results in productivity? And why are the listening skills in corporate America lacking?
The Truths About Listening Skills in Corporate America and Elsewhere
According to an article done by the University of Minnesota published in the Harvard Business Review, people generally do not know how to listen.
If you think about it, this probably won’t come as a complete surprise.
Behind this widespread inability to listen lies, in our opinion, a major oversight in our system of classroom instruction. We have practically forgotten the art of listening. Therefore, we find ourselves constantly saying, “Pay attention!” ,“Now get this!” ,“Open your ears!”, “Listen!”
Certainly our teachers feel the need for good listening. Why then have so many years passed without educators developing formal methods of teaching students to listen?
The Implications of Poor Listening in Corporate America
As a result, this lack of training of listening skills has caused some serious, money wasting issues in our workforce.
According to the University of Minnesota, right after someone hears something, they remember only 50% of the information.
And as time passes, it only get’s worse.
In fact, after 8 hours, that person will forget half of that!
So, essentially, you should expect that the average person you speak to will only remember 25% of the information you tell them. This is your clients, employees, and maybe even your spouse.
It’s a wonder any of us can communicate an idea to each other at all!
Why do untrained people struggle so much with listening?
Reason 1: We’re Too Smart!
Does this scenario sound familiar?
There you are, standing in front on a conference table full of people. You’ve just finished a presentation you spent 3 days putting together. You used visuals. You used every trick in the book to engage the group. Not very many people even checked their phones! You feel confident that you presented all the materials in a way that was easy to understand.
And then, the man in the back raises his hand and asks a question. Normally, you welcome questions. Unfortunately, this question was answered very clearly during the presentation.
And something inside of you screams, “I already covered that! Very clearly! Are you stupid?”
I must confess, I have been guilty of thinking this belittling thought.
However, I’ve learned that this listening problem does not lie in their intelligence. It’s actually quite the opposite.
In fact, our brains are TOO smart!
According to Human Factors International, our brains process speech at a rate of 210 words per minute. And read at a rate of 400-800 word per minute. The brain has a staggering speed of processing that puts even the best super computers in existence to shame.
However, people speak at an average rate of only 100 words per minute. Far slower than our minds are processing.
What does this mean?
When we listen we become bored.
We have extra processing space left. If we do not have the skills to control our listening and slow our thinking, we use this extra processing power for other things. Things like planning a clever response, deciding what to have for lunch, or going over our to-do list. In addition, these things distract us from fully taking in the information.
So, why do we hate meetings so much?
Our minds get BORED. This is why we often feel the need to check our phones, daydream, or even fall asleep.
If you’re currently in a meeting, it’s why you’re reading this article right now.
Tip #1 for improving listening skills in corporate America
Training our minds to slow down our thinking enables us to use our extra processing power to engage with the speaker, form pertinent questions, and commit information to memory. This practice leaves no room for boredom and creates a mental environment for effective listening.
Reason 2: We Have Biases
Biases and emotions effect our ability to listen.
When we hear something that begins to go against an existing belief, our first instinct is to shut it down. Because of this, we sometimes come to erroneous conclusions. On the other hand, when we hear something that supports our beliefs, we tend to accept it willingly, often forgoing the usual verification process our brain runs information through. Neither is an effective way to listen.
In addition, much of the information we hear will evoke an emotional response. This may actually alter the content that is remembered.
Tip #2 for improving listening skills in America
Become increasingly more aware of your emotional state before and during the conversation. Identify emotional triggers and review biases that may be holding you back from gaining more accurate insights to situations and people.
So let’s recap…
Listening is a skill, not a natural trait.
We’re pretty bad at listening.
Poor listening skills effects productivity and morale.
Our minds get bored and distracted
Uncontrolled emotions and biases lead our mind to alter the information we remember.
Tip #3 for improving listening skills in America
Seek training in human behavior, communication, listening and conflict resolution on a regular basis.
Listening is a skill that can be learned. Researchers at the University of Minnesota did a study about training adult business professionals in listening skills. Here is what they found:
These people have made some of the highest gains in listening ability of any that we have seen. During one period, 60 men and women nearly doubled their listening test scores after working together on this skill one night a week for 17 weeks.
By training only one night per week, their group DOUBLED their listening skills in just 4 months!
The benefits of better listening skills are widespread:
There is an average of $213 billion per year spent in wasted meetings alone. Better listening during meeting could help prevent this.
Businesses with effective communication are 50% less likely to have employee turnover. As we illustrated above, better listening is essential for better communication.
And last but not least, better listening contributed to better communication resulting in stronger relationships at work and at home.
Pici & Pici provides training for corporations in human behavior, communication, listening, and conflict resolution. Contact them now at 407-947-2590.