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People Can’t Solve Complex Problems in Life Because They Ignore This Basic Skill

People Can’t Solve Complex Problems in Life Because They Ignore This Basic Skill

How often have your words been completely misinterpreted? Or how often have you heard one thing, while an entirely different thing was said in the first place? Chances are – many times. Why does this happen? This is so as many if not most of us, are bad listeners. Listening is an art that makes for happy relationships – be it at home or at work for if we misinterpret what is being said then we enter a vicious cycle of misunderstandings, fights, and heartbreak down the road…

You May Want to Deny It, But 90% of Us Are Poor Listeners

Experts say that as much as 90% are not good listeners and the reason that is so is simple. We speak at the rate of about 125-150 word per minute, but our brains can process up to 600 words per minute. So there is literally a brain lag between what is being said and how fast we can process it. Which is why we easily get distracted when we listen.

Also, the more we work and multitask at the same time, the worse our listening gets. In fact, management consulting company Accenture conducted a research on 3,600 professionals from 30 countries and found that people found it more and more difficult to listen carefully while they doing many different things at the same time. [1]

9 Common Barriers to Effective Listening That Create Complex Problems in Life

The art of being an effective communicator, be it at home or work doesn’t just come from effective talking but also from effective listening. You have to listen to what the other person is saying and then accordingly, but not instantly, react to that… Let’s talk about the common barriers that hinder effective listening, and what we can do to change that to make us better listeners. [2]

Law of Closure: We Fill in the Gap in What Others Say With Our Own Experiences or Assumptions

Say someone is talking to you about their experience of a jungle safari – amidst their long-winded tale of adventure; you switch off and start thinking about your own experience of the same and basically tune out of what the other person is saying. The result? You missed out on their experience and filled in the gaps with your experience – letting you have a rather incorrect picture of what had actually happened to the talker. This is the law of closure, where we tend to fill in any gaps in what others are saying, with our own assumptions or experiences – which leads to an incorrect conclusion of it all.[3]

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The obvious solution is to really listen to what the other person is saying and keep your own experience aside for another day’s story – if you feel you are getting distracted, ask a question or two…

Law of Field: We Easily Get Distracted by the Noises Around Us

When you are listening or trying to listen to someone, it’s easy to get distracted by all that’s around you and start thinking about all that. Say your boss is giving you a set of assignments to do but not in a closed room sans the distractions. So while he’s listing out what needs to be done with instructions on how to do it, you are distracted by the ringing phones, the multi-conversations around you, a sales pitch going on just near you. This means you are likely to miss out on what was being said and inadvertently do your work incorrectly or leave it incomplete – making you a bad listener in the process.

The solution is to ask the talker to move the site to a closed room and then you listen and take notes to make sure nothing important slips away.[4]

Selective Listening: We Only Listen to What We Like to Listen

Many times, we believe what we want and get attached to our beliefs as well. Meaning we become rigid in our principles. What happens then is that when any conversation goes against our principles or beliefs, it gets filtered out. Say you are on a weight loss program and are skipping carbohydrates. You believe this to be healthy but others may have a different viewpoint that you may be missing out on essential vitamins and minerals when you do so… But when they talk to you about this, you basically stop listening and end up missing out on some valuable advice or information; you might wish you had listened to, at a later stage.

The solution is to be a tad more open-minded and at least listen to other viewpoints, and then make an informed decision about the step you are going to take.[5]

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We Get Stuck at a Particular Point and Forget About the Whole Story

Sometimes, when something has been said, we get so engrossed in one point that our mind tends to stay around it and misses the current conversation happening around us. It could be something interesting, shocking or even difficult to comprehend. Say at an annual meeting, the company announces a withdrawal of a benefit, in order to cut costs. Say that benefit was something great enough to keep you holding onto that job. Gasp! You will now keep thinking about this point, picking at it in your head, and miss all that came after that shocking announcement. Even if the company announced bonuses or a new benefit – in your head you are still mulling the same and going through the motions of listening, without actually listening…

Shake off that wandering thought process and get the whole picture right, before you do something about it.[6]

We Become Judgmental and Shut Our Ears Too Early

So sometimes, we just don’t like what has been said, or the way it was said. I remember once when we are at a two-day soft skills training trip, that the speaker made a random comment about an outfit she thought was rather dowdy, without pointing anyone out – something very close to what I was wearing. Now, this is the point where I kind of stopped listening to what she had to say because I did not like her views – thus I judged her to be an ineffective speaker and spent the rest of the 20-minute session doodling away in my notepad. Did the speaker miss out on anything? No. But did I? Yes.

What I should have done is put my resentment aside, and listening to what all she had to say – I might have learned something new about dressing etiquette for sure. [7]

We’re Mesmerized by the Charm of the Speaker and Forget What They Say

What if the speaker who is talking is the best-looking person you ever met or saw? Then very often, our brains get so distracted by the charm and the pleasing visual imagery that we see, that we just concentrate on that and don’t actually listen to what is being said. What if the speaker is wearing a dress that we so wanted to buy but couldn’t find in our size? Then our mind might just get so distracted by thoughts of that dress that we’d simply stop listening to what is being said.

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The solution is to stop judging a book by its cover – listen to what is being said because that is what you are there for.

We Fail to Go Beyond the Literal Meaning of What Is Said

Again, you don’t always have to take things literally. Many times, we say one thing but mean it in a different way entirely – at this point in time, it is for the listener to take things in the right spirit – and not in the literal meaning of the words. If you as an employee are asking for leave, and the crabby boss sarcastically gives you the go ahead, citing that actually, you should be the boss – is the applied-for leave actually granted? No – this is a cue for you to apologize and backtrack, or if the need is urgent explain the need to your boss and plead your case again.

Literal is not always true – you have picked the emotional cues in what is being said as well.

We Multitask and Mistake Hearing for Listening

We are often doing so many things together, that we might hear what is being said but don’t listen to it at all. Say your spouse is making a complaint about him or her doing the lion’s share of work at home and while you are hearing the words, you are not really listening to the pain and angst behind it… What is going to happen then? You will not work out a solution simply because while you heard the words, they didn’t really register at all. The problem is merely going to snowball into a bigger one.

The solution is to keep those phones, laptops and TV remotes aside and actually listen to what is being said – and then offer a helping hand when you can. [8]

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We Can’t Wait to Draft the Instant Response in Our Minds

Again, many a time, we are in such a hurry to be the first to respond to a question being asked, especially when in a group – that we don’t really listen to the question and respond to what we thought was asked instead. Thus we end up playing the fool. We get so busy in formulating a reply or an instant response that we limit our listening and start thinking instead and very often miss the gist of what was being said.

The solution is to first listen, understand and then respond to it if a response is needed in the first place. For all you know, the question being asked was a rhetorical one.[9]

When we are listening, we have to keep our mind free and focused on what is being said, keeping the distractions and the mind wandering at bay. To be an effective worker or a caring human being – you have to improve your listening skills to understand the people around you and to make sure that you don’t take what they said in the wrong sense. Just open your ears, mind, and heart and listen…

Reference

[1] Fast Company: New Research Shows We’re All Bad Listeners
[2] Ian Brown Lee: The 8 Principles of Effective Listening
[3] CNX: Gestalt Principles
[4] The Law of Distraction & Interruption: The Law
[5] SA Matters: Selective Listening Can Be A Barrier
[6] Boundless: Enhance Your Listening Skills
[7] Zen Habits: A Simple Method To Stop Being Judgmental
[8] Skills You Need: Ineffective Listening
[9] US Department of State: Active Listening

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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