You may still have your ear plugs on

As a miner, ear plugs are a big part of my Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gear. When around crushing equipment which break up boulders of rocks into sizes that liberate the mineral of interest, the noise levels could usually go above 80 decibels. At these noise levels, ear plugs can reduce the decibel exposures and provide protection against hearing loss. 

In 2011, I had my first opportunity to intern at a Mineral Processing facility in Ghana. As a Junior, I enjoyed every moment of the internship – especially, the people and the process. One afternoon, I went to the Crushing Plant and ended up staying there for the remainder of the workday. As usual, I had my ear plugs on the entire time I toured the Plant. Unbeknownst to me, I still had the ear plugs on even after I left the Plant to the office area.

When I went back to the office, a colleague was trying to offer me a ride to the parking lot, but I could not hear him because I apparently had my ear plugs on. While my colleague eventually got my attention, I learnt a leadership lesson that day. When used inappropriately – especially in environments where they are not needed – the ear plugs which are supposed to protect our ears from excessive noise, may end up causing us to miss out on important information.

It is easier to leave the ear plugs on after walking away from the noisy environment. As leaders, there are times that we need to take off the ear plugs to be able to hear the people around us clearly. If your team is no longer providing constructive feedback, check your ears – as you may have your plugs on. Your team may be speaking up, but you may just be missing out on the information because you still have your ear plugs on from your last visit to the noisy environment. The best gift you can give your employees is to listen to them. When doing so, make sure your ears are free of muffs and plugs.

In what ways can leaders listen attentively? Please leave a comment.

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