Thursday, June 19, 2008

You Think You're a Good Listener But

So You Think You're a Good Listener.
By: Barwise, Patrick, Meehan, Seán,
Harvard Business Review,
April 2008, Vol. 86, Issue 4

Some important ideas

Our research – based on Personnel Decisions International's surveys of over 4,000 U.S. managers across various industries and functions – revealed an important additional pattern:

The gap between managers' self-evaluations and colleagues' assessments is widest when it comes to gauging receptiveness to hearing about difficult issues. The difference is clear in ratings of behaviors such as "Encourages others to express their views, even contrary ones" and "Listens willingly to concerns expressed by others."

We believe, is that in most boss-subordinate relationships, superiors overestimate their openness to receiving difficult messages and simultaneously underestimate the extent to which the power difference discourages subordinates from speaking their minds.

Managers should assume that they are less open to unwelcome messages than they think – and recognize that they may be sending subtle signals that discourage frank input.

Patrick Barwise ( is an emeritus professor of management and marketing at London Business School. Seán Meehan ( is the Martin Hilti Professor of Marketing and Change Management at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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