Copyright ©  2004 - 2017  Will Clark

the value of listening - acting 101

"What We've Got Here is Failure to Communicate."
- Cool Hand Luke -           

Acting 101
    
With respect to the profession of acting, most in the audience may share the common belief that the ability to speak a great line is a great actor's finest quality. This is often called their 'delivery.' Behind the wings of the theater and on the sound stages of Hollywood, those who work as actors realize that this is not the most admired quality. The most admired quality, of any actor worth their salt, is known as 'listening skills.' That is not speaking, but listening.

Listening well, in the craft of acting, allows actors to immerse themselves in the moment, to respond with appropriate reaction to the situation, and to then deliver the perfectly pitched line. Listening skills are the fundamental foundation. The rest is just the result of the effort.
  
Listening Skills
    
Quality managers listen well, and poor managers do not. Just like the fundamental standard of acting, the rule applies directly to the workplace - and to much of the rest of life. If a manager isn't interested in listening to the expertise of their employees, then why bother enlisting them in the first place?! 

Quality managers ask their employees real questions, then listen to their answers. They listen well to feedback, to concerns, to suggestions for improvement. Quality managers immerse themselves in the willingness, the talent, and the input of the team around them. They welcome new ideas and new thoughts, opinions - and criticism. They don't have to agree. They don't even have to act on any of the input they've listened to (and observed). However, quality managers will listen, consider, form their thoughts - and then when it is time, give their response - the delivery. All the same principles can be said with respect to quality employees.

The Delivery  


Listening well in the workplace creates an atmosphere that is all upside. Employees know that their voices are heard, and that their thoughts and opinions have value and are worthwhile. They know that their input is contributing to the goal. Employees are more engaged, more satisfied, and are much more likely to perform at a higher level. They are happy. Like quality managers, quality employees are seeking the same goals.

DID YOU KNOW?


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Knowledge Management
    
Through the utilization of all channels of communication, the profession of engineering critical knowledge to effect and to achieve organizational benefit by means of the employment of information, instruction, process improvement, and quality leverage.
  
The Loss
    
Communication has been around since the very beginning. Whether a grunt or groan, hand signal, body language, speech or the written word - communication is central to the ebb and flow of life, and essential for the progress of existence as it is known.

That being said, it might be thought that more value, more emphasis, and more money would be funneled into the world's communication. A great amount of money actually goes toward that very thing. However, billions of dollars are lost every year as the result of poor communication in the business world - billions - just in the United States. U.S. hospitals alone waste more than 12 billion dollars every year on lazy communication practices. Globally, the number is in the many trillions.

This number has not diminished over time. Most businesses are not finding a solution to the issue, to the loss. There are now more ways to communicate than ever - email, cell phones, faxes, text messaging, various software and print forms, and so on. Yet, as the world gains more and more complexity, the money that is lost also increases.

Why is this?  Advances in technology should make things easier, faster, more cost efficient.  The answer is just as simple. The faster things can be produced, the faster the person on the other end wants their product. The net result is that there is no ground gained at all. At the same time, complexity and speed has been added to the system - increasing the likelihood for error, and driving the amount of loss higher and higher.

The Solution
    
Few companies / organizations have a proper solution to the above situation. Most are not even aware that it's an issue. Loss through poor communication gets chalked up to many different factors, and the true issue is overlooked. Most companies and organizations do not even have a good analysis of loss, in general. Companies that do little or nothing to address these issues lose more than 14% of potentially saved monies, and can risk losing as much as 56%. Companies that do employ more effective organizational communication strategies are almost twice as likely to outperform their peers financially.

The solution is clear. Quality companies need quality communication professionals. Those professionals need to have a firm investment in weeding through poor communications, correcting those issues, and establishing guidelines and procedures that will ensure that communication is not a factor in the loss equation. Long-established conventions that communication is simply a function of a secretary's printed letter, an email blast, a monthly report, and a good chat around the water cooler are simply losing notions. Successful organizational communication is an engineering function - and can be used to drive and direct systems, processes, work flow, overall quality, and the financial bottom line.

This is not an easy task. It is not one that will take hold overnight, either. However, it is the solution and the correct course for any company that wishes to maximize its efficiency, and thus its financial position. If this were a routine undertaking of most companies and organizations, the loss that is mentioned above would not be in the trillions of dollars every year. If individuals believe that their company is immune to all of this or that they have the issue under control, they are likely very mistaken.

Communication is much, much more than just a simple directive to an employee by mouth, printed paper, or email. It's much more than an employee conduct manual, or a how-to manual on the workings of a machine on the assembly line. Communication, in the world of modern global efficiency, is about what, how, when, to whom, and why information is delivered. When a company or organization makes the commitment to addressing all of these factors, then they will begin to eliminate loss.

*Sources include Forbes, Healthcare Financial News, Price Waterhouse LLC, Towers Watson, and the Project Management Institute.