Learning to listen can be a challenge if you are used to speaking just to hear yourself speak. The truth is, the real school of life is learning from others and experiences along with the lessons that life give us.
I receive daily inspiration from a bible app I have on my phone. It was no accident that two scriptures relating to listening were the scriptures of the day two days in a row:
“Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”
Proverbs 17:28 KJV
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:”
James 1:19 KJV
In this world of technology based communication, it is difficult to acquire the discipline of listening. We all struggle with understanding the importance of listening and embracing life in the moment. We have adapted to a “microwave popcorn” communication style. Our instructions in life for communication is to listen more than we speak. There is no time limit on true communication.
Imagine your conversations with others. Do you let them finish the sentence every time? Most of us are so accustomed to jumping in with opinions, we don’t even know when a sentence ends in a conversation. How can we learn from those who have wisdom and knowledge to share if we can’t stop ourselves from speaking?
Personal Example Moment:
I received a call from my son’s school. The teacher provided a vague explanation that we needed to discuss his performance. Immediately I became defensive on the call. She assured me she would explain everything once I was in the office.
When I arrived, I had a list of questions and concerns. The teacher tried to explain my sons learning challenges within the group setting. She was trying to suggest additional tutoring to reinforce the classroom teaching. Since my defense was up. I was unwilling to listen.
After a few days, I was able to digest what she was trying to tell me. I understood she was helping my son. She just wanted my permission to continue. We were able to work together as a team to create a learning solution for my son to ensure his success.
By not listening, I prolonged my sons path to success. I also frustrated myself and the teacher for no reason at all. I learned a valuable lesson about listening in this example.
Part of embracing life is understanding the value of life lessons. As we are evolving communication styles, we need to understand that listening is fundamental in communications. Learning to communicate effectively is a valuable life resource. Especially if we don’t want to miss opportunities to learn and grow.
I am going to try to write a blog about what is going on in America without too many political views. You are right in understanding this well be hard. It is just important that truths are known that can affect the way we work, live and do business.
As a generation x black woman raised on the west coast, I knew very little injustice. In fact, the first racial injustice in my memory was the Rodney King beating in March of 1991. The entire community was outraged by the incident, but more so that the police officers (who were caught on camera) were not punished for brutally beating a man in a random traffic stop. This led to the 1992 riots portraying people of color as riotous angry people.
I am now a mother of three minority young men. They are absolutely amazing. They are in college and positive members of society. However, as a black mother of three minority sons, November 2016 changed my confidence in their safety. It changed my perspective in their success in the business world. You can ask why, but we all know why.
November 2016, a generation of older politicians, affluent businessmen, and neo Nazi supporters (who cannot agree on anything) came together to bring back laws that enslaved minorities. These same laws took away the right to vote, the right to live in any neighborhood, the right to fair employment, and the right to just be free.
The positive thing about this is, the age to technology and social media established a platform for awareness. Social media is bringing awareness of incidents of injustice that have happened in the past and currently. As a result, as a joined community we are saying “we will not go back”.
Now that I have ranted about the reason for this blog, I want to discuss how to build a social arsenal that can protect us from this fear to returning to a very negative time in American history. We need to be socially aware without living in fear. Here are some tips:
If you read this and you want to add comments or tips, please do. We must work together to stand strong.
Growing up in my family, we became accustomed to the insults that are meant to be funny. It is known as a form of family bonding. Eventually there is this cycle of pointing out flaws in people that are in our circle. It seems harmless, only there is a long-term harm that can diminish the ability to be successful.
This analysis may seem silly, but it is true. As we progress through generations, the term “thick skin” has lost its meaning. In fact, as we become older those little insults float around creating self-esteem issues that are not immediately noticed. If someone tells you enough times that you are stupid, in the back of your head this is part of your description for yourself. However, if you have an environment where everyone tells you how smart and capable you are this becomes your reality.
It is important to become proactive in only surrounding yourself with people that only say positive things about you or at least know when to say nothing at all. In addition, you must also be someone who does not give energy to judging others or saying negative things about other people. This is difficult if you have been raised the same way I have where you learn to take the insults and laugh it off.
Let’s consider the way we communicate generationally to understand the lasting effects of judgement and insults:
As humans in our personal and professional lives we are regularly in situations that can be escalated. “Can be” is the key statement that should be considered. We are either the customer or the professional in either scenario.
As an agent in the call center industry, there are many opportunities to improve communication. This industry is mentally draining and can be deadly. Customers don’t consider there is another human on the line trying to do their job. The agents take calls back to back. It can be a demanding career. In such high stress environments, illnesses such as high blood pressure, anxiety disorder, and heart disease are common. It is important to find opportunities to refresh and provide excellent service for each caller.
To recover from the last call, you must have a strategy in place. This ensures you are prepared for every interaction. Here are some important tips:
Similar to life interactions, the un-expected will happen in your professional life as a call center agent. After your initial introduction is when the customer must “have the floor”. Always make sure you listen after you introduce yourself, this will allow you to assess the situation. Simply, take a breath and become the answer to their question. This will give you confidence and the customer respect.
When I decided to embark in the corporate world in my 20’s, I figured if I just display that I am articulate and smart this will be a snap. I was wrong. Apparently, there is this unspoken rule that black women must stay within a medium of: not too happy, not too sad, never angry, and always willing to be the team player (even if the team does not want to play).
I have walked this fine line for 20 years. I have found I can never be fairly judged based on the negative stereotypes given to black women. This is what I do know about myself:
Many companies are already understanding the importance of accepting all races, genders, and age ranges. These companies are enriched with diversity and a range of experience and skills that further grow the company. If an employer wants to take the necessary steps to understand how individuality leads to true diversity they need to eliminate stereotypes. Many opportunities can be missed by not understanding the negative effects of stereotyping.
This new segment will specifically be labeled on a page titled “Opportunities for Excellent Service”. When you see this title, the content will include a review of one of my many adventures or research trips. The goal is to provide an objective view of the experience. The information will have facts about the experience, my personal feeling on the experience, and what could have been done differently (if anything at all). The company name will be listed; however, employee names will be left out for purposes of anonymity.
This past week my husband and I celebrated our 22nd anniversary. Due to personal medical issues, the goal of the trip was to remain in stress free environments that allowed the opportunity for rest and health monitoring. The trip started with a short cruise and ended at the Historic Mission Inn Hotel and Spa. (http://www.missioninn.com/)
The Mission Inn is near and dear to us since we renewed our vows at this location 12 years ago. We have stayed at the property 1 other time after renewing our vows. We were familiar with the beautiful property and amazing guest service. On this stay however, something different happened.
The true opportunity for excellent service is something I talk about in other blogs when it comes to setting the customer expectation. If the hotel was going to dismiss the incidental deposit policy that is listed on their website and on their front desk counter, they should have advised me correctly. This changes my willingness to order room service at all.
It also appeared the front desk manger was not trained correctly in some manner on how to address incidental holds in relation to incidentals charged to the room. When the agent heard me, and acknowledged that there were already holds on my account, he should have followed standard hotel policy to release the holds or allow the charges to settle. If he was not aware how to do this he should have waited for senior management to assist.
This does not change my view of the property and how amazing the grounds are. I would still recommend this property. I will however work with management to make sure this does not happen to any other guest. This is just another opportunity for excellent service.
We tend to be selfish human beings with this expectation that everyone should be in a special charity that develops and helps us personally. It is not possible for everyone to make you feel great all the time. It can be a slap in the face when you try to move forward in life seeking the support from friends and family only to find out they do not support your goals.
It is more important that we develop each other and give life to our goals and dreams more in this generation than ever before.
When you talk to people about what's new or important to you, there is an expectation of overwhelming support. Instead you are given a weird look and an underwhelming response. This can be deflating.
It is helpful to everyone's success to provide helpful information or necessary criticism. If you can't provide that, give feedback that lets the receiver of your information know that you may not be as informed as you need to be. As a result, you truly can't provide feedback. There is nothing wrong with this.
Let's work together to breathe life into our goals. At the end of the day we want to succeed. We can succeed if we have the right support and the right information to succeed.
Healthy competition in the workplace is a good thing. At the same time, too much competition with no rewards can have a negative impact on the morale of employees. The negative morale of too many employees can create negative results for customers. It is important to add positive balance to work environments in which competition is inevitable such as sales conditions.
To create an inclusive environment in competitive environments, allow a relaxed environment. Adding fun games and employee spirit prizes create an alternative to the work competition. Many companies include community events and team sports to create a fun environment outside of the office. This creates a positive company morale.
As an employee, it is important not to be frustrated by any losses a competitive environment may create. The goal is to win together as a team. Employees can add to the positive and inclusive environment by staying actively positive. If there are concerns that may appear to create a negative environment have a strategic meeting with a supervisor on how you both can create change together.
Companies can only win as a team. Competition is inevitable. If your team is not on the same page with the business goals, you have already lost. Create reasonable expectations and challenge employees to exceed these expectations. Employees are willing to compete if they know they are winning as a team.
Companies are uncomfortable with employees who ask too many questions. It's just this simple: If you ask me to jump off a bridge with you as an employee, I'm willing to do it. I just want to know why we’re jumping off the bridge. I need to know is it worth it for me to jump off the bridge. I want to know will I have a parachute. I want to know what's going to happen when I get to the bottom. I am asking questions because I want answers.
This seems like extreme reasoning when comparing an employee asking questions to jumping off a bridge, however employers become nervous of employees who ask too many questions. This puts them in a predicament where they must talk about their processes and policies. There may be many reasons why companies want employees to follow directions with no question. One thought is most of the processes and policies have been in effect so long, no one knows why they exist. In addition, it may be costly to make changes. Either way, this should not be such a negative experience for the employee.
Employees are not robots and should not be treated that way. Employees who ask questions actually want to be invested in the company. It should be a positive experience to have employees ask questions. This does not make the employee a negative person. They just want to know more.
It shouldn't be complicated answer the questions. Don't be afraid of the employee who asked the question. This may be the employee who can help take your company to the next level and point out something that is failing in your infrastructure. Companies should not be intimidated by the employees who ask questions. If you answer the questions correctly the employee may be willing to jump off the bridge for you and with you provided you answer the questions they ask.
Common sense coaching makes the difference between a positive and negative work environment. Particularly in the corporate environment. There should be a balance between coaching and improving the employee morale. There is no value to providing negative feedback to employees and leaving them feeling diminished. The employee can place the negative energy back into the customer experience. The goal at the end of each day of the positive feedback from customers since they provide revenue. If you provide negative feedback only, this is a 50% to 90% cut in revenue to your company. This is huge.
Coaching is as simple as this: provide feedback that improves the customer experience. It is neither positive or negative. It is constructive and based on the perception of the person receiving the feedback. It sounds complicated, but it is simple. The fewer adjectives, the better to explain how the employee can improve. Provide directions and point of reference. As a coach, it is important to provide the reason why based on personal knowledge. This is complicated for supervisors or managers who have never worked in the field, yet have been hired based on networking or education. I feel every supervisor, manager, or VP needs to humble them and understand what the employee does to coach appropriately. Employees take coaching seriously from someone who truly understands what they are coaching.
Management teams have an opportunity to provide feedback that provides direct results to the company revenue. It is important to look at the opportunities to build an employee up and give them direction to excel in their position and even grow with the company. This is just common sense.