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Did You Know?

Most organizations have taken steps and created processes for measuring productivity. But what are the consequences of poor or miscommunication within our organizations?

If the question has you thinking about how to begin, here are some examples of costly miscommunication in business environments identified by Helen Wilkie, a consultant and author specializing in profitable, applied communication:

  • Long, boring, poorly-planned unproductive meetings that reach no conclusion and serve no purpose
  • Sales presentations that show no concern for, or understanding of, the client's needs
  • Wasted time due miscommunication about time or scheduling
  • Badly written e-mail messages that cause misunderstandings, ill will and wasted time
  • Employee alienation caused by managers who don't listen
  • Lack of understanding between people of different age groups
  • Lack of understanding between male and female employees

"Measuring productivity on the shop floor is relatively easy," says Wilkie.

But administrative productivity or miscommunication related costs are more difficult to gauge.

Further, these costs could be substantially more significant than we might think. For example, consider the following statistics about workplace conflict, which is a common result of miscommunication or misunderstandings:

"In 2008 U.S. employees spent 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict. This amounts to approximately $359 billion in paid hours or 385 million working days.

"Ten percent reported that workplace conflict led to project failure and more than one-third said that conflict resulted in someone leaving the company. Twenty-five percent of employees surveyed said that avoiding conflict led to sickness or absence from work."*

Those negatives translate into real financial losses for small businesses.

*Lawler, J. (2010, June 21). Retrieved 2013, from

 Selling Quotes
"Who speaks, sows; who listens, reaps."
—Argentine Proverb 
"You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time."
—M. Scott Peck 
"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
—George Bernard Shaw 
"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
—Winston Churchill 
"Never confuse movement with action!"
—Ernest Hemingway 
Paul Charles & Associates
519 Mammoth Rd - Londonderry, NH 03053
[603] 537-1190
     "Helping people sell more
                                    & communicate better"


In one of last year's newsletters we shared research data indicating that "listening" is the most important communication skill, and that it is also the most frequently-used communication skill. Unfortunately, it's also the one at which most of us are the least efficient.

To improve our skills, it might be wise to first recognize a few often-forgotten truths about listening.

To begin, listening should not be confused with "hearing." Hearing is something we can do without thinking, as in hearing background music or the sounds of traffic while we work or drive. Listening, on the other hand, involves comprehension; it can also have an impact on our audience because others can observe the fact we're listening to them and they tend to react with positive feelings about us as well as about themselves (i.e., they feel important or that their message is being deemed as important).

In addition, listening should not be confused with having a good memory. If someone does not remember what we tell them it may not be due to the fact they are poor listeners. Some people are unable to retain information over time, despite having listened attentively to those who shared the information with them.

It might also be helpful to recognize the fact that we all have a tendency to refute what others say. In fact, this rebuttal tendency has been identified as one of the top three barriers to good listening because as soon we shift our focus away from what others are saying and instead focus on how we will argue with it, we have compromised our ability to listen.

Similarly, it's important to recognize that we can't listen well if we are distracted; and one of the most common distractions involves shifting our focus away from what others are saying and instead focusing on what WE will say or ask next.

Fortunately there are a number of things we can do to improve our ability and capacity to listen. Here are 10 listening skill-builders:

  1. Maintain eye contact during face-to-face conversations. Studies show that our ability to both listen and comprehend increases significantly when we do so.
  2. Don't talk as much. While this might seem obvious, consider that it is nearly impossible to listen if we are speaking!
  3. Make a conscious effort to associate what people say; ask clarifying questions. This is especially important when communicating by telephone since we have no eye contact.
  4. Ask more open-ended questions (i.e., those that require more than a simple one-word response). This can help us to talk less because the open-ended structure of our questions will be prompting others to speak more.
  5. Don't interrupt
  6. Create a written plan for meetings and important conversations; include a list of objectives as well as a few questions you'll ask and statements you might make; this significantly increases our capacity to listen because in reduces distraction.
  7. Maintain an open mind and objectivity — a conscious effort to do so reduces our rebuttal tendency.
  8. Take notes during meetings and important conversations (if possible) — this enables us to "listen" with not only our ears, but also our sense of touch and vision.
  9. Use what is said in conversation — respond/build on what's said
  10. Periodically summarize what is being discussed. This tests the quality of our listening and can motivate us to implement some of the other skill-builders that might be applicable.

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effective business communication

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