Is your client listening a silent disco?

Welcome to this month’s edition of ‘The Happy Client’, inspired by my recent annual child-free get-away to Butlins for one of their 80s weekends!

One of the highlights of my weekend was the silent disco. This, if you’re not familiar with the concept, entails wearing a headset linked to music played by two different DJs. If you don’t like the song that comes through, you simply switch channel to the other DJ. It’s based on the premise that you only listen to what you want to hear. When you translate that sort of thinking to listening programmes, it’s a significant, and all too common, pitfall.

Listening to your stakeholders can provide a wealth of insight and much opportunity to drive commercial and cultural growth in your organisation. But that’s only true if you’re open to hearing everything, as uncomfortable as some of it may initially feel.

If you only listen to a limited range of views, you risk the following:

Confirmation bias

When you choose to seek out information that confirms your pre-existing beliefs or opinions, you miss out on valuable insights and alternative perspectives. It can happen when businesses ‘cherry pick’ interviewees who they know will only have positive things to say, and leads to a distorted view of reality.

Limited growth

By avoiding opinions or information that might challenge you, you miss opportunities for growth. It really is true that growth and development come from confronting and learning from a wide variety of views. I always challenge my clients to suggest participants in their listening programme who might be less than satisfied with their engagement with them. They learn so much from them and, as long as they’re prepared to act on what they’ve heard, can then gain so much that is of value to their business.

Poor decision-making

Ignoring certain opinions, particularly those that bring challenges to the fore, can lead to poor decision-making. Decisions made in an echo chamber often lack critical analysis and consideration of all relevant factors. Gathering insight from a wider range of stakeholders can support a wider range of decisions, from the topic of your next marketing campaign to areas for investment in training for your team.

Strained relationships

Refusing to listen to those whose views might make you uncomfortable can strain professional relationships. Interviewees who are perceived as ‘difficult’ will appreciate your desire to surface issues so they can be dealt with, and this usually results in their developing a much stronger relationship with you. And in any case, you’ll often find it’s not as bad as you think!

Missed opportunities

By limiting perspectives or insight to only those who you know will give glowing reviews, you may miss valuable opportunities for collaboration, learning, or business growth. I call my work ‘listening’ rather than ‘feedback’ because it’s about looking to the future as well as going over what happened in the past. And of course, the future is where opportunities can be brought to fruition!

Silent discos, in the right place, on a Butlins weekend get-away, are great fun but altogether less useful when it comes to listening programmes. So be bold, invite a wide range of views and don’t switch channels if you don’t like what you’re hearing. In the meantime, have a good laugh at me and my friend Clare silently rocking the 80s’ vibe in this photo!

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