In the competitive world we live in, business owners can become so growth-oriented that you could forget financial success is closely linked to your “soft” side.
Indeed, it can be easy to enter the world of business with all guns blazing, but according to the experts, there is more to being a good leader than simply bulldozing your way through the world of work.
In fact, sitting back and being receptive might be the missing piece of the jigsaw when it comes to the success of your business.
Indeed, according to Morgan Stanley wealth adviser Anna Winderbaum, listening is the key to succeeding. In an interview with Forbes, Winderbaum, who manages $2 billion in assets, says, “In order to build trusting relationships, it is vital to ask the right questions, listen deeply and connect authentically.”
Following on from this sage advice, here are three things for business owners to know about the power of listening.
1. Vulnerability has its place in business just as much as toughness
When running your business, you will have had to make some tough calls.
Especially in recent years, with the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis making life challenging for some, it has not always been easy to be “soft” as a leader.
However, just as being a business owner calls on you to be resilient, perhaps an underused skill in your field is the ability to be vulnerable where necessary.
Take Anna Winderbaum as an example. With $2 billion in client assets under her wing, she is no stranger to pressure. Yet her success has not just been made with strength, but also by “being willing to share my own personal stories and experiences, especially those that relate to what our clients are going through”.
Project these circumstances onto your own working life, and you could find that listening is a great place to start when practising vulnerability. By listening to the concerns of your employees and customers or clients, you can then share personal wisdom that you have garnered over the years, forging a bond that helps you achieve great outcomes together in the long term.
Whether with your employees or your customers and clients, knowing when to drop your guard could bring you closer to your goals. Humanising yourself as a leader is no bad thing, so do not be afraid to listen closely and open yourself up to deeper conversations.
2. Improving your listening skills as a business owner can have truly tangible benefits
When running a modern workplace, it is crucial to understand the preferences and priorities of the younger workforce. Even if your employees are predominantly older, the workplace of today requires a more holistic approach than those of years gone by.
So, it could be extremely constructive to work on your listening skills as a business owner. Often, the way busy company owners listen can be inadvertently dismissive to the person speaking, and could even shut down that line of conversation altogether.
Some listening skills to pay attention to include:
- Waiting until the other person has completely finished speaking before reacting
- Pausing to reflect before offering a knee-jerk response
- Voicing your openness to receiving feedback, even if it is something you do not want to hear
- Absorbing information through an objective lens, rather than letting your ego get the better of you, particularly if a person is offering criticism.
Becoming a better listener could enable you to:
- Establish an open dialogue that allows problems to be rooted out before they deepen
- Empower employees to voice their ideas, concerns, and visions in a welcoming space
- Stamp out unwanted modes of communication, including bullying, harassment, stonewalling, or manipulation
- Unite the team under the company message, improving any client-facing work you do
- Become a friendly confidant to clients and colleagues alike.
Working on these skills as a business owner could have many tangible benefits, not just for your company culture, but for the productivity and success of the enterprise overall.
3. Listening effectively can help you adapt your business to a changing world
Even if you have been in your industry a long time, the world has changed at a rapid pace.
The digital age has irreversibly shifted the world of work, and recent challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis have further tested the resilience of business owners around the UK.
Although you may think you know best, listening to the needs of your employees and clients can help you serve them better.
Some ways to actively invite discussion among employees could include:
- Hosting internal feedback sessions that invite all colleagues to voice their thoughts
- Holding one-to-one meetings with key members of staff on a regular basis
- Incentivising employees to offer feedback, such as through an employee of the month scheme, or an annual survey.
In addition, some options for making yourself more approachable to clients could be:
- Conducting an annual, anonymised client survey
- Running webinars or in-person sessions with plenty of time for questions
- Using your own experience to relate to clients during conversations.
It is easy to overlook the value of being approachable. But by carving out space in your week to tune into essential customer and employee feedback, your business could thrive both financially and culturally as a result.
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This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.