Continuous improvement and lean need effective communication for its success. Lean is a people-centric system, which means that the way you treat and communicate with people is critical for success. Therefore, for a successful continuous improvement journey, you need to be a good communicator. One of the characteristics of good communicators is that they listen. Are you a good listener?
When you go out to the office, shop floor, or construction site, AKA gemba, you ask questions to understand what is happening. However, you can ask good questions, but if you don’t listen, you are missing the point of visiting gemba.
What is a good listener?
Many people believe that being a good listener is let the other person talk without interruptions. Furthermore, nod or repeat a few words. It is a common belief that a good listener repeats a few words to confirm that you understand. But a good listener does more than that.
Continuous improvement fosters an environment of learning and discovery. Asking the right questions helps to promote curiosity and observation. Leaders are expected to teach and guide their team through questions. Good communicators are thoughtful about the questions they ask. The purpose is to understand and help the speaker to gain a deeper understanding of the situation. In addition, you want to guide them to uncover more details. For example, think about the priorities or benefits versus risks.
A good listener uses active listening
Active listening occurs when you suppress the need to dominate the conversation or provide ways to solve problems. Instead, you listen and focus on the speaker. Be empathic with the other person. Notice the speaker’s body language, tone, and emotions while it speaks. Recognize the implication of the words by understanding how he/she feels.
Create a safe environment to have an honest conversation. Listen with curiosity and ask questions to understand. Also, watch your body language. For instance, maintain eye contact and use appropriate gestures. Show respect by keeping your whole attention on the speaker.
But there is more to it than listening and asking questions
In addition to asking questions, there is something more a good listener does. A conversation is an exchange of ideas. Clarify your doubts and restate their thought to confirm that you understand. Provide feedback to keep the conservation going. However, resist the urge to tell what to do. Build upon the speaker’s ideas, help them to build their self-esteem. Answer their questions honestly and clarify their doubts.
Listening and cultural transformation
Effective communication at every stage of cultural transformation is crucial. People need to know what, why, how, when, and who. During the process, leadership work to facilitate the team’s work and develop their skills. To increase their engagement, daily Gemba walks supported with effective communication are key.
The team needs to know what the problem is and what you want to accomplish with a continuous improvement strategy. Moreover, leadership needs to listen to what the team has to say. If you don’t practice active listening and do something upon the subject of that conversation, the transformation will be broken.