Educación y Management

¿Sabes escuchar realmente? Una guía de McKinsey para identificar a los ‘bad listeners’

Un lugar común del buen management es saber escuchar. Esa cualidad aparece siempre cuando alguien señala cómo debe comportarse un ejecutivo con sus colegas, colaboradores, socios o clientes. Pero, ¿realmente hay tanta gente que tiene esa cualidad y la muestra? ¿Crees que sabes escuchar a tu interlocutor?

Este post, basado en un excelente informe de la consultora McKinsey, es un buen ejercicio de reflexión sobre nuestro estilo de gestión, y puede aplicarse a cualquier persona en su vida profesional e, incluso, en la comunicación personal.

Según señala McKinsey, saber escuchar es una de las cualidades de mayor valor para un ejecutivo, pero también una de las menos cultivadas.

El saber escuchar bien, entendido como la actividad disciplinada y activa de analizar y utilizar a fondo la información recogida de los demás para mejorar su calidad y cantidad, es la clave para construir un conocimiento que va a poder generar ideas frescas. Saber escuchar más y mejor puede marcar la diferencia entre el éxito y el fracaso, y en suma, entre una larga carrera u otra más corta, afirma el autor de este artículo, Bernard Ferrari.

Según explica, hay 3 elementos clave que marcan la diferencia entre los que saben escuchar y los que no tienen tan desarrollada esta cualidad:

1. Mostrar respeto por tu interlocutor.

2. Saber estar callado, o lo que es lo mismo, escuchar más que hablar.

3. Ser capaz de cuestionarte lo que tienes asumido.

En el artículo, el autor establece una guía para identificar a los que no saben escuchar, que reproducimos aquí íntegramente en la versión original publicada por McKinsey dado que nos parece de mucho interés como ejercicio de autoreflexión para cada uno:

A field guide to identifying bad listeners (Fuente: Mckinsey Quarterly)

To improve your listening skills, you must learn what’s keeping you from seeking and hearing the information you need. Below are descriptions of six of the more common archetypes of bad listeners. Any one individual can demonstrate these archetypes at different times and under different circumstances. I admit that I’ve demonstrated all six, sometimes on the same day. During your business conversations this week, see if you recognize any of these kinds of bad listeners—or recognize them in yourself—and track the results. If you can use the descriptions below to set up some alarm bells for your own off-putting behavior, you’ve taken the first step in curing what ails you.

The Opinionator

The Opinionator listens to others primarily to determine whether or not their ideas conform to what he or she already believes to be true. Opinionators may appear to be listening closely, but they aren’t listening with an open mind and instead often use their silences as opportunities to “reload.” While Opinionators may have good intentions, the effect of this listening style is to make conversation partners uncomfortable or even to intimidate them. Opinionators routinely squelch their colleagues’ ideas.

The Grouch

Grouches are poor listeners who are blocked by a feeling of certainty that your idea is wrong. One typical grouch, a top executive I worked with at an industrial company, made no secret of his contempt for other people’s ideas. He approached conversations as a necessary evil and sent the implicit message: “You’re full of it. You’re a fool. Why did you think I’d be interested in this?” Through perseverance, people could get through to him in conversations, painful though that was. However, many of his colleagues simply didn’t have the energy to break down his barriers every time they needed to express an idea to him.

The Preambler

The Preambler’s windy lead-ins and questions are really stealth speeches, often intended to box conversation partners into a corner. Preamblers use questioning to steer the discussion, send warnings, or generate a desired answer. I remember a meeting with one Preambler, the chairman and CEO of a medical complex, who (by my watch) spent 15 minutes posing slanted questions and making rhetorical assertions that all supported a recommendation he wanted to make to his board. Such behavior epitomizes one-way communication.

The Perseverator

Perseverators talk a lot without saying anything. If you pay close attention to one of these poor listeners, you’ll find that their comments and questions don’t advance the conversation. As often as not, Perseverators are editing on the fly and fine-tuning their thoughts through reiteration. Perseverators use the thoughts of their conversation partners to support their own prejudices, biases, or ideas. When talking to one, you may feel that the two of you are having completely different conversations.

The Answer Man

Everyone wants to solve problems, but Answer Man spouts solutions before there is even a consensus about the challenge—a clear signal that input from conversation partners isn’t needed. Answer Man may appear at first to be an Opinionator. But the latter is motivated by strong feelings of being right, while the former is desperately eager to please and impress. You know you are speaking to Answer Man if your conversation partner can’t stop providing solutions and has ready answers for any flaws you point out, as well as quick rejoinders to all the points you raise.

The Pretender

Pretenders feign engagement and even agreement but either aren’t interested in what you’re saying or have already made up their minds. The worst Pretender I ever met was the CEO of a health care company who had all the right moves: he seemed to hang on every word uttered, for example, and frequently won people over with a knowing, empathetic smile. That gave his conversation partners every indication that he was processing their words and agreeing with them. Yet eventually his colleagues would realize that he had not acted on anything they’d said or, worse, didn’t have access to that information when it came time to make decisions or take action.


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