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There’s no denying that every organization thrives on seamless communication, but good communication isn’t a one-way street. On the one hand, you need to implement storytelling as a means of sparking discussion, while on the other, you need listening to make storytelling effective.

That said, listening is not without its series of obstacles. People can become distracted by a wide range of factors such as various noises, smells, poor lighting, hunger, tiredness, or another physical discomfort. It’s possible they’re upset or have something on their mind, perhaps they have certain feelings towards the speaker, or maybe it’s the speaker’s tone of voice that’s distracting.

As an HR leader, it’s important to be aware of these possible distractions and listening obstacles, both in regards to themselves and others. When leaders are distracted or annoyed by something, it’s important for them to let their workers know about it and that these issues may affect their listening. That’s because they will be watching your responses and will often take it personally. But by letting them know, you’ll be opening up communication and creating a connection, which in turn heightens attention to the discussion at hand.

This technique can be done when having a personal conversation, online, or even with a large group of people within a meeting. Below are several steps to help HR leaders create an environment that promotes better listening.

The Listening-Friendly Environment

  • The first step is telling the meeting’s members why you’ve chosen to call a meeting, as opposed to other means of communication, and why at this particular time.
  • Second, is to create a dedicated space and time for the meeting. You will need to ensure that the space will remain private for the duration of the session and that it has been booked for an adequate amount of time. Also, be sure that it has the appropriate lighting and noise levels. It’s also a good idea to let people know that the meeting will be timed, so everyone can have a proportionate amount of time to speak their ideas. A dedicated timekeeper could come in handy if there are too many people attending.
  • The third step of the process is to go around the room and ask people to say what issues may exist at that moment that prevents them from listening properly, such as ambient noises (AC systems, construction going on outside, etc.), improper or insufficient seating, dim lighting, and so on. The purpose is to fix these issues so that everyone in the room can get the most out of the meeting.
  • Lastly, you should make a habit of recording these meetings, whether they take place online or in person. Make sure that everything that’s being said is recorded, either through precise, diligent note-taking or via an electronic device. Have someone take notes of the meeting so that you can share them with everyone at the end.

It falls under the responsibility of the HR leader to find ways for employees to maximize their communication skills. Among these, listening plays an incredibly crucial role. You can work with your leadership team to uncover the best strategies regarding communication as well as identify all potential distractions that exist in your workspace that may impede listening.

How are you creating an environment of listening in your workplace? I am always looking for examples and case studies. I would welcome a brief conversation with you.  Let’s connect on or

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Inscape Consulting Group
Greg Nichvalodoff, BSc. BM (Honors), MBA, PCC, CMC
Office: 604.943.0800
Mobile: 604.831.4734