Are You Listening?

I was at Disney World this past weekend and noticed they had some of their cast members walking around and asking people for feedback.  Their excellent customer doesn't happen by accident.  It is intentionally thought out and constantly refined. 

One key is the cast members who ask for feedback.  They take the information they gather by listening and analyze it to make their customer service even better.

When an organization takes time to really listen to their customers, great things can happen. 

So the big question is "Are You Listening?" 

Are you listening to the kids in your ministry?

Are you listening to your volunteers?

Are you listening to parents?

Are you listening to the person(s) you report to?

Listening is not always easy.  Especially when you are in a tense situation and the person in front of you is angry and maybe even yelling.  Our impulse is to react and yell back at them...but that will only escalate the situation.

But listening is a skill that can be learned.  And this skill will help you be a better leader.

Let's look at some listening tips...

Devote your full attention to the person who is talking to you.  Maintain eye contact.  Don't be looking around while the person is talking.  This can be a challenge for me at times, since I have ADHD.  After a few minutes of conversation, I start looking around and soon wander off to my next duty or assignment rather than continuing to engage with the person talking with me.  In order to not do this, I have to be very intentional about staying focused on the person talking with me. 
A good listener resists the urge to look around or get distracted.  They stay focused on the person they are listening to. 
Realize that people just want to be heard and know you care about their thoughts and input.  We've heard the quote, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  It's true.

Recap what the person said.  A good listener will repeat back to the person what they said to make sure they have clarity. 

Take the initiative in listening.  One of the best ways to do this is to host a parent focus group.  Gather a group of parents and ask them questions like...

"What is working well in the ministry?"

"What needs to be changed or improved or dropped?"

"How can we serve you better?"

"What is your greatest  parenting challenge?"

"What do you want your child to know and believe?"

As you do the focus group, don't get defensive.  Simply listen with an open mind.

You can get more info. on how to lead a parent and children's focus group at this links.

Children's Focus Group

Parent Focus Group

Respond to the feedback and take action.  This doesn't mean you implement every idea, thought or request.  But it does mean you loop back around and let people know the changes that will be made or an explanation why some changes will not be made.  People just don't want to be left in the dark. 

Here's a challenge.  Watch yourself this week.  See how well you listen.  Seek to improve your listening abilities.  Start working toward becoming an expert listener.  This will result in you being a better listener and leader.