The “L” Word: Better Listeners Make Better MSP Leaders

Author: Kam Kaila, partner and president, IT By Design

A list of qualities that make good team players and leaders will always include honesty, reliability, accountability, passion, etc. But rarely do you see “listening” on that list. That’s sad because being an attentive listener is absolutely necessary for personal and professional growth. Why? Because even though we’re conditioned to believe that speaking is where the power is, the real power is in listening.

Consider these two examples of listening and how they impact your MSP business:

  1. Listening to your Customers: Listening is key to customer retention and how effectively your team is able to triage support calls coming into your helpdesk.
  2. Listening to your staff shows that you respect them and helps support the retention of top talent. Being a listening role model for your staff also supports their growth in attentive listening, thereby helping them become better listeners and potential future leaders. 

There’s two ways to help you and your team become better listeners. One is personal and the other is professional.

Personally speaking …

During an episode of “Sunny’s Silver Linings” podcast, Marcus Bond, a senior consultant for The Collaborative Way, said that listening is a critical component of creating a healthy culture. And culture, as Marcus noted, “affects every aspect of the business because it’s a big part of how things get done.” He shared some listening challenges you may face and solutions to counter them.

Problem 1 – Distracted listening: After about five minutes into a conversation, your mind starts to wander and you begin thinking about something other than what the other individual is saying. Or you begin engaging with emails or doing something else while you’re allegedly listening.

Solution: Build your listening muscles and listen generously. Notice when your mind is “checking out” and “check back in” or pay attention. Don’t multitask because that will take away much of your attention on what is being said to you. Train your mind to focus on what the other individual is really saying. If you missed something, politely say, “Can you say that again?” Then you must really try to understand what the other person is trying to communicate to you.


Problem 2 – Responding immediately: Many of us don’t let the other person finish and we want to jump right in with a reply because we believe – sometimes wrongly – that we know what the other person is going to say. This immediately means that you’re not truly listening to this person.

Solution: Pause after someone finishes speaking. It may seem slightly awkward initially but absorb what has been communicated and then respond. Also, repeat or summarize what the other person said so that they know you heard them and you heard them correctly.


Problem 3 – Employing “filters”: These are the perceptions we have while another person is speaking. This includes judgement filters (agreeing or disagreeing with the other person before they finish), personal filters (having or forming a bias towards the other person, such as “This individual is a rambler” or “I never liked this person.”), and the “I’m too busy” filter, which is labelling the individual as unimportant to listen to or that the topic isn’t important to you – even before the other person has fully expressed themselves.

Solution: Eliminate that default judging and listen with a curiosity and sincere intention to learn from that individual – no matter who they are. They might actually possess that one missing piece of a puzzle that has hindered you or your business from growing.


Professionally speaking …

With the state of work from home and a scattered workforce, we need to use technology more effectively in order to manage both the employee and customer experience. Keeping everyone engaged and helping leadership listen generously can only be accomplished through proper use of data. 

For instance, when we created Team GPS it was built with the understanding that it would become a full-service business operating system that centralizes your traditionally disparate tools for engaging and retaining customers and employees. It is a People Platform. So how does it truly listen?  By gathering feedback from your customers and team members, consistently, and putting it into an easy-to-understand framework, you can really hear what they’re saying about your business, your services, and your people.

Team GPS collects the actionable data in one place and easily mines it to make educated decisions. If your team is unhappy, you will see it in your Employee Net Promoter Score. If an engineer is struggling, the CSATs will tell you. It’s the first software of its kind to illustrate the full landscape of your employees and clients, knowing when and how to act should issues arise, or to reward individuals and teams for even their smallest achievements. This shows them that you are truly listening.

Win-Wins

By becoming effective listeners, and taking the time to invest in active listening, you’ll see multiple benefits including: 

  • You’ll grow closer to each other and to your customers
  • You’ll be more understanding and appreciative of each other
  • You’ll be able to confidently go to each other and have productive conversations regarding opposing views
  • You’ll all be moving forward together with a positive intent about the organization and each other

If you listen closely, that’s the sound of a successful MSP business.

IT By Design is the “people platform” in the MSP industry, providing MSPs with critical talent tools to help MSPs deliver quality services to their customers. By transforming our industry from tech-centric to people-centric – we are able to support the MSPs long-term talent needs. Learn more about our services here


This guest blog is courtesy of IT By Design and authored by Kam Kaila, partner and president, IT By Design. Read more IT By Design guest blogs here. Regularly contributed guest blogs are part of ChannelE2E’s sponsorship program.

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