Thursday, September 21, 2006

Listening builds organizational trust

Learning & innovation – September 21, 2006
By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Listening builds organizational trust

Dr. Toto Estuar does not just say that he practices “open communication,” he actually makes it happen. Every Thursday, his door is wide open to anybody who wishes to discuss with him any topic under the sun. No need for an appointment or permission from his secretary or to knock at the door.

That is one reason Dr. Estuar is a trusted leader. He listens attentively. No wonder that he was able to turnaround the badly bleeding Maynilad Water Service during his first year at its helm. No wonder that wherever Dr. Estuar goes, he is warmly greeted by friends and employees, past and present, he meets.

In his talk to various sectors of the Lopez Group of Companies, David Spong, retired president of Boeing Aerospace Support Program shares the Operating Principles they practiced. How do you continuously and uniformly communicate with 12,303 employees in 131 USA and offshore locations? Please take note that all of these principles entail a lot of listening and not much talking. Some of these trust-building principles are:
• We insist on integrity, first and foremost
• We tell it like it is
• We communicate openly and candidly in all our dealings
• We respect, honor, and trust one another
• We work toward consensus
• Disagreement is healthy and encouraged, but once a decision is made,
we proactively support it
• We have one conversation at a time
• Our silence is consent
• We actively listen and question to understand
• We do not attack the messenger
• We identify clear objectives and expectations for our meetings
• We praise in public, we coach in private

No wonder that under his leadership the two Boeing Companies he led both won the prestigious and much-coveted Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Boeing Airlift and Tanker Program won it in 1998 and Aerospace Support won it in 2003. Indeed, a unique feat to win the award for both manufacturing and service business sectors in Baldrige Award’s 19-year history.

What’s the similarity between Dr. Estuar and Mr. Spong? They make listening and preserving the trust they give and earn part of their leadership habit.

Unfortunately, many of our experiences in our own organizations are variations of these examples:

 Boss comes in and mumbles something (sounds like “Good morning”) without looking at anybody in the room.
 Boss seems to be talking to us, at the same time to two other people and might even be doing some math in his head. He calls it multitasking (read faking listening) because he is pressed for time.
 Boss seems to be listening, but his responses to our discussion are way off tangent; not a response to what we said, but what he wants to say on the subject matter.
 Boss pretends to listen while looking over some papers and affixing his signature on a few.

Listening and building trust are leadership contact sports. It is something you do, with your whole body, heart and spirit. You don’t fake listening, you’ll soon be found out. Some of its dire consequences are low trust, low morale, low productivity; high turnover, high wastages, high repeat jobs, and more of the same uncaring behaviors.

Condolences to the family of Dr. Jose Lirag Lapeña, 84, UPCM, who peacefully joined his Creator last September 13, 2006. His bereaved wife, Dr. Rosa Fabella; children, Joey and Josie Isidro, Cynthia and Deke Amador, Elmer and Agnes Lorenzana, and Corinna and Francisco Llorin; grandchildren, Melay, Ro-an, Jica and their mother Maeyet Guanzon; Kitt, Bian and their father Elmer Rueda; Justin, Lian, Meimei, Jeremy, Ricci and her father Jobbee Baens; and great granddaughter, Shibby, and her father JP de Guzman; brothers; and sisters request relatives, friends and the pious readers to pray for the eternal repose of his soul. Dr. Joey Lapeña (ENT) can be contacted at 0917-9137258.

(Moje consults on business excellence and can be contacted at

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