By Steve Moran
There is a human trait that every single resident, team member, and family member has. It is a trait that seems to be hardwired into our DNA. It is that we need people who are willing to listen to us and hear what we say.
Maybe the equivalent of your hairdresser, barber, or bartender. Someone who will listen to what we are thinking, will be excited about what we are excited about, and worry about what we are worried about. People who are fascinated by us.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to engage in some deep dive conversations with front line staff in one case in a senior living environment and the other at a women's shelter where my wife volunteers. In both cases when I asked these team members how things were going or what could be better, the common theme was not more money, which is what you might think would be number one, but rather they felt like they were not being heard and that they had things to say that would make the organization better.
It Is Tough
It’s tough because almost everyone likes talking better than they like listening. And because of this, mostly when people listen they are just tolerating the other person talking in order to have their own turn. And I am convinced that one of the reasons leaders like to be leaders is that they get to talk more and have to listen less.
And of course, what is odd is that while we mostly don’t really like to listen to others we want others to really listen to us.
A New Staff Position . . . My Proposition
I know you will think this is crazy but I propose that each senior living community creates a new position with the title Chief Listener. Their primary job would be to wander around the community all day and have "conversations" with team members, residents, and family members. The reason the word conversations is in quotes is that their job is to mostly listen and not to talk.
That person would also need to be in a position to take action on what they hear so life for residents, families, and team members would be better. If you had this position you would find your communities would be fuller, residents and family members would demand less from staff, and team members would be happier.
Or Maybe the Position Really Exists Already
I first dictated this article while sitting in the hot tub one evening. When I came back to finish it up a few days later it occurred to me that in super successful senior living communities this position really does already exist but is known by a different title and that is Executive Director. I don’t know if it has ever been studied but I am pretty sure you would find a direct correlation between listening and great executive directors.
As a leader, how good are you at listening?