Merriam-Webster defines listening as hearing something with thoughtful attention. The latter part of that definition—with thoughtful attention—is the key component that often doesn't happen during conversations. So, if you're not listening, how can you properly address the matters that someone is voicing to you?
When Michele Buck became CEO of the Hershey Company in 2017 (the first woman to hold that position), she embarked on a listening tour to hear from employees at all levels of the organization. "Listening to other people's perspectives really helps me make well-informed decisions," Buck explains in our interview with her. "As a listener, I value sitting quietly, letting others talk, and taking it all in." Notably, she has mantained these tours to this day.
Beyond simply listening to employees, Buck says she takes notes, follows up, and works with her leadership team to address the common themes that arise from the conversations. "The power of people knowing you care what they think is job one," she says.
That concept applies not only in management but also in coaching and mentoring scenarios, meetings, training evaluations, and employee engagement surveys. Asking a question and not truly taking into consideration the response does no good for all involved—and can sometimes foster distrust or skepticism among those speaking their minds.
If you're not listening, you're not helping. And if you're not helping in that sense, you're not contributing as much as you could toward your organization's success.