“Shut Up and Listen!”

Great news! Judy is back by popular demand!

Judy Navarrete, SPHR, an accomplished HR manager, contacted me at Military Resumes to express her interest in sharing her vast human resources and operations management experience and insight into the business world with military job seekers.  Her observations are food for thought as you reflect on your own military experience (and how it applies to corporate America) when preparing your military resume or for an interview. You may be familiar with her now famed writing through a series she authored for MilitarytoCivilian entitled “Leadership Basics.” In Leadership Basics and her latest article, “Shut Up and Listen,” she draws on her conversations with a poised and well-respected Marine Corps Staff Sergeant, who she has come to know very well, to craft informative lessons of her own.

Shut Up and Listen

We are all familiar with the saying “communication is key” and understand the importance of communication.  But I recently came to understand just how important communication is when I came across a metaphor that likened communication between a leader and his or her subordinate to the relationship between spouses.  The metaphor proposed the question, “If you had a spouse and you didn’t talk to him/her for weeks or months, how long do you think the marriage would last?”  Similarly, leaders who fail to effectively communicate with their subordinates or peers risk disintegrating their working relationships.

Early on in our conversations, a Marine Corps Staff Sergeant for whom I have a great deal of respect explained to me his understanding of communication.  Surprisingly, his biggest influence was not the USMC, but his mother.  She happened to be the wife of a serviceman and degreed in psychology.  His mother and experiences taught him that communication must always be civil.  One should never communicate argumentatively.  When emotions rise, it’s best to say nothing. He said, so long as people can constructively communicate their concerns and actively listen to one another, most issues can be resolved through understanding.

As part of military training, servicemen are taught the keys to communication.  Knowing how to communicate helps develop trust. They learn to communicate clearly and recognize that each individual sees things from a different point of view.  They learn to be open and honest, accept the feelings of others, ask questions, and listen without interruptions.  Sometimes communication is not about speaking or thinking about what to say.  But rather, communication is listening and being attentive to what the other person is trying to convey through words and actions.

“How to Be a Better Listener” by Sherman K. Okum, Nation’s Business, August 1975, and “Building a Professional Image: Improving Listening Behavior” by Philip Morgan and Kent Baker, Supervisory Management, November 1995, mark the traits of a poor listener as tunes out, is easily distracted, over stimulated, seeks arguments, and judges delivery.  Conversely, the traits of a good listener are fights distractions, interprets color words and doesn’t get hung up on them, finds what’s in it for me, holds eye contact, skips over delivery errors, and listens for central ideas.

At a previous employer of mine, the operations manager and department manager were constantly at odds.  After hour-long debates, the operations manager would complain to me that the department manager would not implement his new processes or set team expectations.  Later in the day, the department manager would complain that the operations manager refused to support his method of implementing new processes and would not agree to the expectations he had set for his team.  Ironically, both of them wanted the same things.  I asked each of them, “Have you talked to him about it?”  Of course each responded, “Yes.  We talked for hours, but I wasn’t being heard.”  In this case, their dysfunctional relationship was due to poor listening skills and, unfortunately, resulted in loss of talent for the organization.

To the civilian workforce, the loss of talent is difficult to bear as projects are delayed and recruitment costs rise.  Similarly, if too many servicemen and servicewomen leave the service when leadership fails to listen to their concerns, missions may not succeed and other detrimental affects may occur.

Much can be learned and communicated through listening.

Judy Navarrete, SPHR is an accomplished HR manager, whose experience extends to non-profit, for-profit, privately-owned, and Fortune 500 companies.  She actively pursues to facilitate former military personnel transitions to civilian careers, as well as educate and promote the hiring and placement of military-experienced talent into viable, honorable positions with established companies. Judy can be reached at jnavarretesphr@yahoo.com.