by Bo Moczula
Senior Consultant, Vizient
As a senior consultant, my first project for Vizient was to set up and optimize new PAR areas in the operating room and subspeciality departments for a prestigious New Jersey medical center. Vizient had consultants on site that completed different elements of the scope of work and were responsible for transitioning the project to me. The first few weeks involved reviewing documents, status reports, meetings and conversations about the different elements of the project.
I realized that in earlier meetings, I clearly didn’t understand all the elements that were communicated to me. I thought I was listening, but in actuality, I was thinking, creating my own agenda, and planning solutions to complete the project and not focusing on what was most important to the hospital. Recognizing this, I pulled back, put my agenda and recommendations to the side, and listened with the intent to understand. Through that process, I was able to complete the project successfully and meet the needs of the hospital.
When you are in a conversation with your colleagues, manager, team members, clients, friends and family members, it’s important to ask yourself whether you are listening to understand or are instead thinking about how to respond? If you are thinking only about your own agenda, then you are not focused on the information shared by the speaker.
It is vital to first listen to understand; otherwise, you may be acting on assumptions, resulting in a distorted interaction and misunderstandings. Listening builds trust by making the speaker feel heard and understood — “I heard your perspective and now we can have a real conversation.”
There are several benefits to becoming a better listener. For one, it will improve your relationships, as being heard and understood increases interpersonal trust. According to Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” we have “emotional accounts” with one another, and trust is the currency of these accounts. Emotional accounts fluctuate — our human interactions determine whether we add or withdraw currency. The currency is based on the feeling of safety you have with another human being. When trust is high, communication is easy, instant and effective.
Another benefit of being heard is that it empowers and motivates employees. Studies have found that when workers feel heard, they perform to the best of their abilities. They are four times more likely to feel empowered and do their best work because they believe they can do an effective job.
One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Ford: “If there is any great success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from their point of view — as well as your own.” That’s especially true when it comes to complex business conversations. When we listen to others during assessments, projects and other engagements, we are building trust by understanding what really matters to them. Before we prescribe solutions as consultants, we must listen to understand what is needed, then recommend, prescribe and implement solutions.
About the author
Bo Moczula is a senior consultant in supply chain operations for Vizient and a 30-year supply chain, operations management veteran, having worked in manufacturing, education and healthcare industries. He is particularly experienced in logistics and inventory management solutions, including warehouse management systems, PAR level inventory management in med/surg and clinical departments, Perioperative supply chain, process and operations improvement. He is a Six Sigma Black Belt and is a member of AHRMM.