Sound decision-making depends largely on the quality of information utilized for the purpose. One needs to be well informed about both the external and internal environments while working into corporate. But it is not easy as the people working in corporate are surrounded by very complicated information systems.
The information flows from a variety of sources and it becomes difficult to decide what information to absorb and what information to discard. Listening plays a crucial role in the quality of information gathered by a manager or executive. If one fails to listen properly, the failure immediate or gradual is almost certain. But listening alone is not enough in the current scenario, there is a need for strategic listening.
Understanding strategic listening
Strategic listening means purposeful and time-sensitive listening. Strategic listening cannot occur unless the listening objectives are clear. Information received must be compared against the objectives and only the useful information must be retained. This also means grasping the information that is needed for that time and keeping in mind that situations are dynamic and therefore any information that is useful today may not be of the same importance in future. Another crucial fact to be noticed here is that real picture of the situation is never disclosed by any single source of information. It is therefore essential to assemble information from multiple sources to get a comprehensive picture of reality. Management by walking about (MBWA) is a strong tool for strategic listening. Going to the subordinates and initiating informal communication helps the managers to gain quality information on various issues from multiple sources.
Learning the skill
Strategic listening is a skill that can be developed over time. First of all, it is important to understand that everybody in the organization has something to contribute to the organization. As such, every organizational member from top to the bottom in the hierarchy must have listened. Moreover, they should not have listened like a passive listener but whatever is shared by them must be given a thought and analyzed well to reach a decision. Strategic listening involves listening not only to what the other person is saying but also empathizing with his/her situations and perceptions at the time of communication. The emotional intelligence of the manager may play a crucial role in empathizing with the speaker. Strategic listening also requires looking beyond one’s own assumptions and perceptions of the things. An open mind to listen to new ideas and a flexible approach to absorb these ideas is essential in strategic listening. If listening is done strategically, the success of decision-making is not too far.
- Ferrari, B. (February, 2012). The Executive’s Guide to Better Listening. McKinsey Quarterly.
- Sharer, K. (April, 2012). Why I’m a Listener: Amgen CEO Kevin Sharer. McKinsey Quarterly.