Psychology for Business

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Vol.2, No.25                                                                                                             December 14, 2001




By Paul Kenneth Glass, Ph.D., Business Psychologist and Independent Consultant


This is the time of the year that most people look forward with great expectations. From the young children, to the special loved ones and friends, to the loyal employees, to the beneficiaries of what is often a profitable time for businesses. But how often does the gift fail to meet the expectations of the receiver? Unfortunately, all too often!

Why? The giver is thinking of others and, out of his/her heart, giving something to others. How can this go unappreciated?

As an illustration, let me provide an example of a generous employer who thought very hard about how, in troubled economic times, to remain appreciative of his employees. He asked other business friends, from his civic organizations, what they were going to do, especially given the fact that many of them were also struggling in their businesses as well. Knowing that these were good people, he trusted that the ideas they provided would be helpful.

When he returned to his office he felt he had the right way to show the holiday spirit. He would offer a holiday party and he would give everyone a coupon for a large turkey or ham. He was pleased with himself for thinking of the needs of others. However, as time passed for that holiday season he detected frustration and disappointment. Not that the employees did not appreciate the party and gifts, but they were working 10 hours a day and were required to work weekends too. They had requested time off, which the business could not afford, and needed the bonuses that they didn’t get either.

So what is the point?

Like the man who asked his wife what she wanted for Christmas, and was told, "all I want is a nice quiet candle light dinner with you," and then went out and got her (what HE knew she really wanted) a toe ring! (This actually happened.)

The POINT is WE frequently DO NOT LISTEN!

We think WE know what people want or how to do something, even if others are likely to know better than we do, or how or what is best. Or, as in the case above, we ask the wrong people. What would happen if you did not ask your children (and take it seriously) what they wanted for Christmas, Channukah, or other special occasions?

DON’T MAKE COMMUNICATION ONLY ONE WAY! LISTENING IS THE FORGOTTEN SKILL REQUIRED. This, of course, applies not only to the personal arena but to the business arena also. How well do you practice listening?

Entering an executive’s office, a couple of weeks ago, I immediately noticed the distress on his face. I inquired as to the problem. He informed me that he was very angry with his two best managers. I asked what the problem was. He then proceeded to tell me how his managers never seem to listen to him. After discussing the problems for several minutes it became apparent that the well intended executive had two major problems.

First, he needed to be communicating effectively by providing sufficient information for the listener to understand both the basis for the requests, and the behavior he was expecting from the managers to accomplish his desired objectives.

Second, the executive failed to take into consideration the comments, needs, limitations, etc. of the managers. In other words, he did not listen to the faithful managers who were trying to fight in the trenches for the executive.

Communication is a skill essential to all aspects of business and personal relationships. If you fail to listen to your customers, what will happen? Then why is it frequently ignored when it comes to the managers, employees, etc.?

As we were reminded in the practical business book, "Flight of the Buffalo," don’t be the lead buffalo and believe you have all the answers. Listen to others, and allow them to lead when they know more about something than you do. And, if they don’t have enough information to make suggestions and lead within the constraints of your business objectives, who’s problem is that? Did they have enough information?

Steven Covey clearly directs our attention to the art of listening in his book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:" "If you really seek to understand, without hypocrisy and without guile, there will be times when you will will literally be stunned with the pure knowledge and understanding that will flow to you from another human being."

What are the principles I need to follow to improve my listening and my communicating more effectively!

* First KNOW WHAT YOU ARE WANTING, or trying to accomplish.

* Make sure you COMMUNICATE IT CLEARLY. (If they did what you wanted, what exactly would they have to do? What is your expected outcome?)


* IDENTIFY the RESOURCES and CONSTRAINTS that you are aware of. Don’t expect others will automatically know these, or consider these critical items.

* ASK THEY WHAT THEY HEARD you say was important. CORRECT or CLARIFY and MISUNDERSTANDINGS right away.

* Ask the appropriate others WHAT THEY THINK (or want) before finalizing any decision.

* REPEAT BACK what you heard them say.

* WATCH FOR THEIR REACTION, it may tell you more about what they feel or about understanding what they need to accomplish your goals.


* NEGOTIATE ANY DIFFERENCES (taking into consideration their needs is essential to soliciting their investment.)

* Demonstrate by your behavior that YOU WILL SUPPORT THEM in accomplishing the desired outcomes.

* LET THEM TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY for what is done, don’t be the "know it all" lead buffalo.

* EVALUATE AS THE PROJECT PROGRESSES, don’t wait until the end and then try to go back and correct the problems (this will save time, money, and most importantly the risk of emotional distress for you or your workers).

* MAKE CHANGES as needed (e.g., timelines, resources to support personnel, etc.).

* REWARD, appropriately, the achievements (this is part of communicating too!) Remember, the only good reward is one that is meaningful to the receiver.

Though you may think you already know these basic principles, it is easy to forget to practice them, especially your role as the effective listener. With the heavy demands on you, your employees and your loved ones, it is very important you do your part in making this holiday season more peaceful, more joyful and more appreciative of our blessings, by showing love through listening to what others want and need.



About the Author

Based in Waukesha, WI, Dr. Paul Glass is available for consultation or coaching by phone, e-mail or in person. He may be reached at (262) 797-2728 (office) by e-mail at pglass@psychologyforbusiness.com or:

Paul Glass, Ph.D.
Psychology for Business
2717 North Grandview Boulevard, Suite 303
Waukesha, Wisconsin, 53188


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