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Listen and become a true business leader

Published on Friday, 05 Nov 2010
Sidney Yuen wants to give people a life-changing experience.
Photo: Dustin Shum

To illustrate the difference between leaders who claim to listen and those who really do, Sidney Yuen likes to use the example of a supermarket chain he knows about in Ireland.

There, the CEO and chief financial officer don't just sit in boardrooms and analyse meetings. Instead, during regular store visits, they roll up their sleeves, position themselves at the end of a check-out counter, and spend an hour or two helping customers bag their groceries. "That is the classic example of a listening leader," says Yuen, who has more than 20 years' experience training individuals and businesses to be more effective. "All the company's executives are expected to do the same thing, so they have a good dialogue with frontline staff and hear directly from customers what they can do better and what competitors are up to."

One simple but sincere act helped to create what Yuen calls a listening system. It obliged management to get out, interact and learn. And before long, the benefits could be seen in numerous areas, notably improved turnover, profits, customer satisfaction and staff morale.

"To be a good leader, you have to be a good listener," says Yuen, CEO and chairman of consultancy firm HBC. "So, we aim to teach the 10 golden rules of listening and practical skills that can help people not only improve business performance, but also give them a life-changing experience."

He plans to do just that at "The Listening Leaders Workshop", a full-day event on November 25 jointly organised by Classified Post. Starting with a short survey to highlight how our self-perceptions differ from how others see us, it will then focus on building the foundations for good communication, giving total attention, and understanding the key steps for having a constructive dialogue. "Participants will see the benefits; they will be able to reconfirm what they are good at and identify the skills they lack," Yuen says. "Each person has a unique profile, but we will teach specific techniques for practical situations and turn data into knowledge."

He will use the teaching tools such as sense, interpret, evaluate, respond (SIER). This helps to show that, in day-to-day conversations, many people react rather than respond. In order to listen and communicate more effectively, they must learn to sense more acutely what another person's tone of voice, body language or facial expression is telling them.

By applying a systematic approach, that leads to a clearer evaluation of the factors influencing a dialogue and, ideally, to a more thoughtful response.

"Because you can listen five times faster than you speak, you should use that speed gap to really think about how you are going to respond," Yuen says. "During a conversation, you shouldn't be multitasking, as it just leads to reaction. Instead, I ask people to focus and build a better SIER into their day-to day lives."

To demonstrate the power of listening, he uses case studies, exercises and examples that build a plan for participants to follow. "We want to open up people's minds," Yuen says. "The training is very personal, but it will also help companies become more customer-focused by enhancing communication and really listening to staff and customers."

Event details  

Date November 25, 2010

Time 9am-4.30pm

Venue Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel, Tsim Sha Tsui

Fees HK$3,200 standard rate; HK$2,900 early bird rate (until today)

Inquiries E-mail or 2250 3396. Register on


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