Why listening matters

posted by Scott McKenzie

It has been an odd week. The Bank Holiday weekend meant some much needed respite for my wife… and so I was on childcare duty. A long holiday weekend with my two little girls.  I was genuinely excited about it. Well I was until two nights of teething related lack of sleep, relegated me to the role of zombie-daddy.

Suddenly, just surviving the three days felt like an achievement.

And then from feast to famine. All my girls have flown the nest. A week away at my in-laws. So for a short while  I have reverted to a bachelor’s lifestyle. Takeaways, listening to loud music, exercise,  and err… sleep.  

In truth, the house has felt like an eerily empty place.

And while I miss my girls three nights of good sleep has had a hugely rejuvenating effect. Zombie no more.

I have felt more tuned in at work. Able to concentrate more, able to laugh more, able to really listen to what my clients and colleagues are saying.

In fact listening has been a recurring theme this week. At H+K we put all of our consultants through an active listening course. Two of my team have been through it in recent weeks. It has been fascinating watching them apply what they have learnt. Suspending their agenda, asking open questions, playing back what they have heard, probing for the central question.

As I’ve said before our job is to be more than message crafters and channel managers. Ultimately, we are problem solvers.

Developing listening skills is critical for effective problem solving. The risk for the quick-minded problem-solver is that you jump to a solution too fast. My colleague Naomi and I were talking about just how important active listening really is.   Without gathering all of the data, without probing questions which take you to the heart of the matter, how do you know you’re even solving the right problem?

As I fly over to be reunited with my girls I will be contemplating how I apply these problem-solving skills to my ongoing sleep deprivation. So far my active listening has been constrained to the plaintive cries of my teething toddler. And sadly that has yielded few answers…

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