Listening Skills are Valuable in All Areas of Life
Gary Praznik has worked at iQor for more than twenty-one years. He is currently President and CEO of the 35,000-employee company where he has held roles in operations and sales. In this episode, Gary shares how he learned the power of listening early in his youth and how listening has helped him in all relationships, including in his career.
Gary tells the story of how in his youth in Columbus, Ohio, his father said to him that he could no longer sit on the couch upon college graduation. So Gary moved from the sofa to another piece of furniture. His father told him he could not sit on that piece of furniture either. Gary’s father was signaling that it was time for him to go out and get a job. This was a valuable lesson for Gary on the importance of good listening.
So, Gary moved to Houston, Texas, with college roommates without a job. He ended up finding one and a new wife. After a few years, he moved back to Columbus and found himself in the same predicament of searching for a job. He knew he needed to find a place to live for him and his wife and somehow convinced a landlord to rent them a condo even before landing a job with the power of listening and persuasion. That’s when Gary realized he had a gift for selling. He soon started a sales job in the business process outsourcing business.
Listening as a Skill
Gary says that listening as a skill is a fantastic way to understand how to be instrumental in any situation. When Gary listens, he says that he’s listening for more than just the content. He studies the vocabulary chosen by the person, their sentiment, emotion, delivery, body language, and generally the total communication experience. His listening skills are multi-sensory and more profound than just listening to the words being spoken.
Listening is the fundamental way to build relationships in every area of our life, whether personal or professional. Gary says that listening is a skill that anyone can learn and improve. It starts with paying attention. Whomever you are listening to convey to the person that you are engaged with their message. Demonstrate attentive body language with eyes locked on the communicator. The listener should ask good questions that require more than a yes or no response. The question should result in a meaningful response. Learning how to be an effective listener is very important in your career advancement.
Listening Day to Day in Your Work
On any given day, it’s essential to provide a forum for employees to enable their voices to be heard. These channels must include good listening along with relevant feedback. Whichever platform is provided, the communicator should always be willing to solve a problem and then ask for feedback on the proposed solution. Ask people to come to a discussion with solutions, not just with issues.
Generally speaking, every element of what we do in business is related to problem-solving. Listening is crucial to understanding problems. There must be clarity in what was communicated. Good listening skills include asking for clarification when it’s needed.
Does Role Matter?
Gary has held many roles in his career. He believes that effective listening skills are not limited to just a sales role, for example. We’re often selling our ideas or solving problems wherever we are, and therefore, the art of listening is crucial in one’s career, no matter your role.
Inspiration from a Call Center Agent Journey
Gary was very inspired by Strawberry Castro’s story in episode 5. She experienced a bump in her career journey when she didn’t complete the courses in time to graduate from the sQholar program. She listened to advice from peers, friends, and supervisors and committed to returning to the program. When Strawberry did return, and she over-achieved by graduating with honors. Strawberry’s personality and tenacity combined with her strong listening skills enabled her to graduate and achieve her dream job at iQor.
The Power of Listening at iQor
We have many forums at iQor where we can listen to our 35,000 employees. We hold Town Halls where business updates are provided, and feedback is also available from employees. We administer a Mood-o-Meter to collect weekly feedback from our contact center agents. We also administer an NPS survey so we can react to what we learn. Additionally, coaching is available at every level. Coaching is critical at the agent level since more than 20,000 agents work at home. We train our coaches to defer judgment, demonstrating that they listen well. Supervisors, who have walked in agents’ shoes, are welcoming and always providing advice, which is a crucial element in successful coaching.
Listening Experience Return on Investment
Twenty years ago, Gary’s superior told him that we all have a limited amount of calories to spend each day. He asked Gary, do you want to spend your time on what you can control or cannot control? When we spend our time on what we can’t control, it is very exhausting.
In his leisure time, Gary loves spending time with his four grandchildren. He is listening to them as their vocabulary is developing. He also enjoys spending time on the water, and he is an avid golfer. Gary enjoys sports. He sees the correlation between sports and business and life.
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