In today’s fast-paced and quickly changing world, one of the most important things an organization can do is listen to its stakeholders. Whether it is a business listening to shoppers, a religious institution hearing those in the congregation, or a nonprofit asking donors for input on the direction of the organization, it is critical to glean these critical insights before taking action.

In our company, we exist to help retail companies, nonprofits, and other organizations listen. Too often, with the desire to keep things moving forward quickly, listening falls to the back burner. So we help organizations pause, prepare, pay attention, process, and put into practice what important stakeholders have to say about their organization.

However, these principles are not just for organizations. They can also apply to our personal lives. Let’s take a look at each of these important “P” principles to improve your listening in five simple steps!

Pause. The first step in assessing where we are and where we want to go is to simply pause, realizing the need to take time to reflect and listen in order to figure out what comes next.

Prepare. In this step, the focus centers on getting ready to ask the right questions so that we can learn about those areas most important to us. If we don’t ask the right questions, the answers don’t matter! Asking the right questions might be “person-to-person” if related to a personal situation or it could be in the form of a survey if asking a wide number of people for an organizational need.

Pay Attention. Have you ever visited an establishment of any sort, had an employee say “hello, how are you” yet before you can respond (or in the middle of your response) the person just keeps on talking as if you weren’t even present? Clearly they were not paying attention! If we pause and ask the right questions, but then fail to use what we have learned, the whole effort was a waste of time and energy.

Process. The next step is to process and think through the information gathered or the situation. This may require stepping back and reflecting deeply before deciding what to do.

Put Into Action. The final step is to take your decision and put it into action. Whether this is a personal organizational decision, nothing will happen without doing something!

The next time you have an important decision to make, remember these five steps to help guide you through the process!


Written by Brian Numainville, Principal, The Feedback Group