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By Jan Kuyper Erland
Mem-ExSpan, Inc.

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This is reprinted with permission
American Society For Training and Development's
"Performance In Practice"

Although companies strive to develop and maintain a High Performance Workplace, unfortunately an unacceptable level of internal errors and omissions persists. Quality Assurance standards are set, but with the intensity of today's workplace, inadequate training, poor skill transfer, and even carelessness, errors slip through.

Poor information processing is often an underlying factor in these productivity robbers. The base of information processing skill lies in our visual and listening memories, the two highways to our brain. Most of us tend to be visual learners. The many basic visual and listening memory tests given in corporate workshops, confirms this premise.

It is unfortunate, however, that most of us fail to understand how critically important listening ability is for us. We also may not be aware that our listening ability can be measured and then trained to optimum levels. Or, recognize that good listening memory is essential to conceptual learning, so vital in understanding new technical material.

If we have an inherent, uncorrected low listening ability, we will not advance in job or career as quickly as we would like. We may misinterpret communications, and fail to integrate important information. If details do not register while in the listening mode, they can not be utilized. Often, we are criticized for "Tuning Out," an attitude of willful disinterest. However, in reality the problem can simply lie in our processing ability. This being the case, it is trainable.

An earlier PIP article, "Jazz Up Your Short-Term Memory," (Summer 1998) included memory games for non-related word series. This is a good way to begin training your listening. However, there are additional types of listening memory besides learning word series, including memory for sentences and memory for numbers. In this article, we will practice memory for numbers.

We may discover that we have difficulty keeping numbers straight in our minds while listening to instructions. Following is an actual story of how a failure to interpret verbal instructions with numerical figures can create havoc in the workplace:

A securities firm representative erred in following a customer's telephone instructions to withdraw a small amount from his sizable IRA account. Instead, the representative withdrew the entire amount of the account. Later, when the client received the oversized check, he was stunned, and immediately called the firm.

After a month of written and telephone communications, the error was finally corrected and the account restored.

Three years later, the IRS began an action against the client to collect taxes on the entire amount of the account. Between the investment firm and the IRS, the firm's original reporting and the later corrections became entangled. It took several more months to straighten this out in favor of the client.

This example shows how the effect of a failure to follow verbal instructions correctly can compound, causing turmoil for several parties. Whether we are on the giving or receiving end of the error, it can be costly. Many mistakes in the High Performance Workplace can be eliminated by diligence in better listening ability. Let's practice several exercises to improve our listening ability for numbers.

A Simple Numerical Listening Exercise:

Many of us can not use our telephone calling card without looking at it. To compound matters, if we have to call information for a new telephone number, we must juggle the credit card number in our mind, plus the telephone number of another geographical area.
Pretend you are in a distant city, and call information for the new number (the area code and telephone number) or ten digits. Next, dial your long distance 1-800 credit card server (eleven digits) adding your nine-digit calling card (totaling 20 digits), and attaching the ten-digit number you just heard.

Using telephone credit cards could total up to thirty sequential numbers to remember!

Finally, let's practice a few number spans to improve listening for numbers. Have someone read the number series to you, so you can not see the text. Repeating the numbers backward will help you develop the ability to visualize placement of the numbers, so you avoid transposing them.

For example, try this number series: 832-4787 Now in reverse: 7874-238 Repeat the correct number series forward: 832-4787.

Here are two more. Now, you can create your own as you drive home or to work:



Reviewing this article will give you insight for your listening practice. Enjoy learning and growing with your listening memory!

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Jan Kuyper Erland, M. S. Program Content Developer, Intervention Consultant
Mem-ExSpan, Inc.
The Bridge To Achievement ®