The Importance of Listening

listenSuccessful people know that the secret to effective communication is listening.  Speaking is only half of the equation.

We have all had dealings with people who do not know how to listen.  In fact, I would guess most of us have experienced interacting with people whose personal agendas leave little time or inclination for listening.  When a person is described as “engaging,” nine times out of ten, it means the person was a good listener.

As a rule, we are taught to focus on our speaking abilities and not on listening.  Hearing what people are saying to us is a critical skill that influences our ability to respond appropriately.    Whether you are lawyer, doctor, business executive, or chief compliance officer, the success of your interactions will depend on your ability to listen to the speaker.   When you listen attentively, you tend to learn more and you can respond effectively.

Take a look around at the next meeting you attend or the next presentation and pay attention to how people listen.  Many have blank stares, some are focused on other things,  playing with pencils or pens or even looking at their phones.  Some companies conduct meetings with no electronics allowed – imagine being without your phone for 30 minutes.

In the business world, listening skills are critical and evident in all interactions.  Even on a telephone call; it is readily apparent whether someone is actively listening, holding multiple thoughts, formulating their response, or even focused on something else.

The challenge for a Chief Compliance Officer is to be a proficient and active listener.  This simple skill is critical to so many aspects of the CCO’s job.listen3

The CCO has to persuade the board, senior executives and colleagues to support her or his mission.  The power of persuasion depends on the ability to listen and respond to others’ ideas, and requires an understanding of a person’s concerns, attitudes, motivations and emotions.  Listening to stakeholders is imperative.  A CCO who devotes more time to speaking than listening is doomed to failure.

Every compliance program depends on the CCO’s ability to communicate broadly the benefits and importance of compliance.  It may sound cliché, but a CCO needs to understand what each manager and employee needs in order to succeed at his or her job.  Managers and employees often fear that the compliance function is designed to deprive them of needed resources and approvals to carry out their job (e.g. their ability to entertain a government official for prospective business).

listen4A CCO who begins a meeting with the sales team by asking a simple question – “What do you need to succeed at your job?” can learn by listening to the responses. Ultimately, it could lead to an honest discussion of company policies governing critical interactions between sales staff and their clients, and may help shape the staff’s perception of compliance policies and procedures.

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