Posts Tagged ‘team development’
One of the challenges for Amanda and those who work with her is because of homophily: the notion that people like similar kinds of people and things. Amanda is dissimilar to most of her colleagues, and to Huan, her manager. Nevertheless, Amanda is valued for her ability to innovate, which Huan recognizes is a crucial component of the work of the medical devices team.
Huan wants some practical tips for how to work with Amanda to channel her questions and ideas, but without losing any of her creativity.
- The biggest issue lies within the team and Huan, and not Amanda. They do not understand homophily and how their lack of similarity to Amanda’s style impacts their working relationships. So, the first tip is for the team to learn their individual and group listening profiles and become educated about how listening habits form in their brains, bodies and emotions and dictate the way they interact with others.
- That said there are techniques Huan can use with Amanda. Set listening expectations. If Huan had told Amanda before the team meeting that he needed her to listen as though she was from the FDA, she would most likely have stayed on track. Instead, he proceeded with the ten questions without Amanda knowing her role, which caused her to spin ideas without a framework.
- Limit the number of questions or ideas Amanda can offer. Again, this is a technique to set parameters. The difference is if a Conceptualizing Listener is told that three great ideas are more valuable than ten mediocre ones, s/he will self-limit and listen for what is most important.
- Provide Conceptualizing Listeners with note cards or stickies, and ask them to note their questions and ideas on them. Huan wants Amanda’s questions and ideas; however, he might prefer them after a meeting or discussion when he can reflect on them and not be blindsided or overwhelmed like what happened in the team preparation meeting.
- Don’t always try to rein in Amanda, but hold separate idea-generating meetings when everyone is expected to do what comes naturally for Amanda. It’s important that Amanda has opportunities to shine and for her teammates to stretch their listening and thinking to increase their homophily behaviors to be more like Conceptualizing Listeners.
- Conceptualizing Listeners are often optimistic and happy, two qualities that every organization needs to value.
Of the four listening styles, I find that Conceptualizing Listeners have the most challenging time getting heard in organizations. They generate ideas while they’re listening, which can make it confusing for others, especially those who are action-oriented and want to get to the point. But, Conceptualizers are often the ones with innovative ideas.
Amanda, a research scientist in the medical technology field, has an idea-a-minute. She listens attentively, seemingly only for a short while, then begins to ask a lot of questions and offer ideas. Her boss, Huan, has told her more than once to stay focused and to listen. Actually, Amanda can cite almost everything that others said, and the ideas she offers are frequently innovative. Nevertheless, she can seem inattentive and scattered.
Following is an actual situation that shows Amanda in action. Huan’s team was preparing to meet with people from the FDA about the status of a new medical device. The company was anxious for the meeting to go well to move the product along in the approval process. For the team meeting, Huan, a very precise and careful manager, prepared a list of potential questions the FDA representatives might ask.
At the team prep meeting, Huan started to read the questions, and as he got to the third one, Amanda asked him to give them some more background on how he came up with the questions, what, if any, did the FDA submit, and who did he gather data from to actually answer the questions. Two of Amanda’s teammates said they were sure Huan did his homework, and they didn’t need to have her questions answered.
Huan with less energy than before, continued with his list, and Amanda sat quietly until the tenth and final question was put to the team. Silence reigned until Amanda, sitting forward and with a pondering tone said, “Have we addressed potential side effects for orphan diseases; and in the third question you said 35% of patients were tested, but in the fifth question you cited a different population, was that also 35%? I’m wondering if the FDA will be concerned with how the weight of the product might need to differ for males, females and children? What if we ask the FDA to brainstorm with us to develop a more exhaustive list for review?”
Eyes rolled, jaws tensed, and feet tapped. Amanda’s teammates didn’t want to hear more ideas and questions, they wanted to move forward, meet with the FDA, and respond to FDA questions rather than take more time to address Amanda’s list that would surely slow the process and might never be surfaced by the FDA.
Huan has asked us how to help channel Amanda’s Conceptualizing listening without losing any of her innovative thinking. What 2-3 pieces of advice do you have for him and others who want to know how to interact with Conceptualizing Listeners?
I’ll chime in with my advice on the next post.
Brad will probably fare fine in his new group because of homophily: the notion that people like similar kinds of people and things. He’s an IT person who will be surrounded by others like him. The fact that he presses for details and data will be familiar and appreciated, so he will know how to listen to his colleagues and they will know how to listen to him.
But, the head of HR calls Marge for advice because she can already tell it will be challenging to get Brad to listen to her. “He’s no different from the other IT folks, and he’s a right fit for us, but since he speaks so highly of you, I’d be most grateful for any advice you can give me.” As an Inner-Personal Listener Marge asks for a day to put her thoughts together. Finally, the next day she sends these tips:
- Brad cares most about getting something right. He doesn’t need to be right; as a matter of fact, he’s very good at dispassionately examining an issue, but he does need to get to a right answer. So, tell him what you are following in his line of thinking, ask him how he got there, and be very open in your line of questioning—no drilling allowed. And above all, come prepared with facts or he’ll ignore you.
- Speaking of ignoring you. I learned that when Brad’s paying attention he’ll take a posture like Rodin’s The Thinker. But, when he stops listening, he physically cuts away, maybe by writing, looking at something/someone else, rifling through papers. He rarely looks people in the eye, even when he’s paying attention. He does signal attention by nodding or pointing his finger in agreement.
- Stay away from feelings. Brad will sacrifice a worthwhile discussion if it gets too personal or emotional. He once told me that feelings are better left at home.
- It’s also possible that Brad will either linger too long on his search for the perfect amount of data, thus creating analysis paralysis, or he’ll take precipitive action in his desire to move on. Either way, he can be impatient. So, I learned early on to set the stage for our interactions by asking him what he wants, why, and what I could do to satisfy his needs. Then, during our interaction, I’d ask if he was getting what he wanted.
- Most of all, I’d say you’ll never go wrong offering him coffee, he drinks a lot of it throughout the day, with a heaping plateful of data and facts.
When I’m asked how listening styles are like MBTI descriptors, I say that listening is a brain function for the most part, with psychology thrown in, and MBTI is a personality type, so they really aren’t alike because they measure different aspects of a person. That said, I do notice that ISTJ’s are often also Problem-Solving Listeners. Pressed, I could find a correlation, but I’m not a university researcher and don’t want to go down that road.
If you have thoughts about the similarities, do share them with us.
Brad was once in Marge’s (first case and an Inner-Personal Listener) department and he really enjoyed working with her. Brad was a contract employee and lost his job when the contract ended. Marge tried to keep him, to no avail, but she did help him get a full time IT job with a vendor.
In an unusual move, Brad asked Marge to lunch, not to thank her, but for a different reason. He wants her to help him understand himself better so he can have as good a relationship with his new colleagues as he did with Marge. At first she was reluctant, but then Marge thought it might be good training for her to be more forthcoming, and she does like Brad.
Marge describes Brad as detailed, fact-driven, precise, and impersonal when he listens. She says, “Sometimes I wondered if there would ever be enough data to satisfy your desire to get something just right. You could be exasperating, but rarely misinformed or wrong.” Characteristically, he asks her to cite examples and sits back, head in hand, to listen to as many as she can provide. Brad doesn’t react or defend; he listens to her words as information, not words about his character.
At the end of their lunch Brad thanks Marge and asks her to give him advice about what to tell his new colleagues about how best to interact with him.
What 2-3 pieces of advice do you have for Brad as he prepares others to interact with him?
I’ll chime in with my advice on the next post.
In your dealings with Manuel you find him to be verbal, people-oriented, quick, and enthusiastic. He’s a good example of an Extra-Personal Listener. He’s fast paced and will expect Iain to respond in his time frame.
So, here we are, coaches, to help Iain interact effectively with Manuel, and the sooner the better before any negative patterns develop between them. That is more apt to happen when people work virtually. Following is some advice for Iain as he prepares to talk face-to-face with Manuel about how they will work together effectively.
- Manuel is concerned about people, so that’s the place to start. Listen to what he asks about the impact of information or decisions on others. Openly share what and whom you know and offer to make connections.
- It will be a challenge for Manuel to work virtually because he likes to be in the midst of a team. Get clear about how often he wants to communicate, how, for how long, with whom, and for what purpose. Extra-Personal Listeners need people to listen to, so don’t isolate him.
- Slow Manuel down by using questions. Extra-Personal Listeners have a tendency to think on their feet and can be very talkative. By asking questions of Manuel when you’re listening, he has to slow and think. That will give you both time to pause, something that you desperately need, for you to translate what Manuel is saying into your own interests or ideas, and for Manuel to reflect. It’s crucial that you take sufficient time to come to mutual understanding of issues, concerns, ideas before ending an interaction.
- Use “we/us” to show you’re thinking of others while at the same time establishing a relationship between you two.
- Adapt your body language to mirror his. Extra-Personal Listeners are the ones who are most likely to look you in the eye to show they’re connecting. Their voice patterns and body language are animated, and they can even seem loud to you. Match your energy to make yourself seem familiar to Manuel.
Before we delve into the case study of The Extra-Personal Listener, I want to share something I just learned. It’s a psychological concept known as homophily: the notion that people like similar kinds of people and things. The concept certainly isn’t new, but I wasn’t aware that it’s a recognized term. The idea, which adds to the challenge of listening to people who are dissimilar from us, surely parallels what we talk about in this blog.
Manuel is an Extra-Personal Listener and serves on the global marketing team. He wants to know how information, experience, ideas, and decisions apply to others. He asks about relevance, impact, values, relationships, culture, and he wants to talk about those issues—immediately.
People often have mixed reactions about Manuel. Some find his exuberance to be inviting while others are overwhelmed by it. Everyone does agree that he’s not afraid to show his feelings and cares more about people than numbers. Manuel is known throughout the organization as a connector. He pays attention to the needs of customers, peers, direct reports, vendors, and definitely, management, and tries hard to see that their needs are met.
Manuel has been temporarily assigned to a new project headed by a team leader, Iain, a Scot and a stranger to Manuel. Iain thinks you know Manuel well enough to give Iain some tips about how best to interact with Manuel, especially because about half of their interactions will be virtual.
What 2-3 pieces of advice do you have for Iain as he prepares for his time with Manuel? That is, how do you develop homophily between the two?
I’ll chime in with my advice on the next post.
Rick has only been on the job for a week and most of his time has been spent with his manager to clarify roles and responsibilities. He hasn’t had any individual interactions with staff members, and he’s been in only one department meeting with Marge in which Rick did the talking about his background, work style, expectations, and refinements to departmental goals.
Rick and Marge don’t know one another, and they both want to start off their relationship on the right footing. Following is some advice for Rick as he prepares to talk with Marge about how they will work together effectively.
- Marge will not initiate conversation nor engage in small talk. She is not shy or off-putting, although it might seem that way at first. Mostly, she’ll listen carefully to what you say, will allow your words/thoughts to sink in, and won’t respond unless directly asked.
- To engage Marge, be prepared with a series of questions. You might even send her the questions beforehand so she’ll have time to think them through before you meet.
- When Marge does answer a question, ask a follow-up question that queries her thought process, experience, knowledge, opinion, rather than expect that she might say more beyond her initial answer. Marge will most likely continue her thoughts inside her head, so you’ll have to ask for them to be verbalized.
- Smile and show you’re interested. Marge’s body language is apt to seem removed, but her way of showing attention is to sit upright so there’s no clutter to get in the way of your communication. Don’t be concerned if she doesn’t look you in the eye. Watch for her to look as though she’s bringing your words into her head or even seemingly having an internal conversation—she is.
- Marge will appreciate your making connections to her work: my goals to your goals, departmental challenges and our combined ability to resolve them, our complimentary experience and work styles…
- End with a request to provide you with her thoughts about the meeting along with some suggestions about how to continue on a positive working relationship path.
It’s so refreshing to get emails and Linked In comments from people who agree that we all have individual listening styles. I still haven’t completely cracked the nut on acceptance that the term Active Listening is both a misnomer and misleading, but one mental model shift at a time.
Individualized listening styles lead us to conclude that each person must develop strategies to be able to adapt to others with different listening preferences.
Remember the Golden Rule of Listening: Listen to others as they want to be heard.
While our goal at Listening Impact is to help people do just that, it takes learning, time and practice to be an agile listener. One way to understand different listening styles and to develop strategies to listen to anyone is to use the case study method.
I’ve written four cases, one for each of the four different listening styles surfaced in Hear! Hear? Your Listening Portfolio®. Please read the case and weigh in with your thoughts about how to help others adapt to the case-study person with the particular listening style.
Marge is a very well defined and practiced Inner-Personal Listener. She’s manager of Cyber Security, an increasingly important job. She pays close attention to people who relate their message to what she’s interested in and knows, and who don’t dwell on feelings.
Marge is considered in the office to be quiet and introspective. Colleagues who make presentations to her don’t expect a lot of questions during an interaction, but they are usually pleased to hear from Marge afterwards when she shares very good feedback, especially about how their information relates to what Marge is working on or responsible for. She’s also generous with her knowledge and willingly shares it with colleagues, most often one-to-one.
Alas, Marge recently got a new boss, Rick. She will be one of Rick’s five direct reports. He came from the outside, so they’re all strangers. Therefore, Rick is meeting with the staff to get to know them personally, figure out their work styles, hear issues and ideas, and determine how to create a cohesive team.
What 2-3 pieces of advice do you have for Rick as he prepares for his hour with Marge? Rick and Marge want to start off their relationship on the right footing
I’ll chime in with my advice on the next post.
It’s no surprise that engaged leaders are the linchpin to success of any change effort. What may be surprising is how often leaders miss the mark due to listening and communication gaps. In fact, a study by LeadershipIQ.com revealed that the number one reason CEOs are fired is due to mismanaging change. Specifically, findings showed “a failure on the CEO’s part to properly motivate employees and managers, and more specifically, to adequately sell the need to change course.”
True sponsorship goes well beyond participating at steering committees and funding approvals to include active, visible listening and leadership. What does this look like? It’s a series of micro decisions all day long to be accountable for change through listening and communicating. How do you know if you are doing it right? When your sponsor role becomes less about meetings and funding and more about conversations with people at all levels in your organization. You will know you hit the listening sweet spot when you begin to get really tough questions, from all levels in your organization.
These micro decisions add up quickly; either to engagement or missed opportunity. I encourage you to reflect on the following micro decisions:
- Do I make myself accessible to listen to my teams or is my calendar booked solid?
- Do I regularly ask my teams, key partners and stakeholders, “How can I support you?”
- Do I talk with key business leaders and stakeholders about how the change connects to strategy?
- Do I really take time to listen to stakeholders’ needs and concerns? Do I carve out time to then relay and discuss this information with my team on a timely basis?
- Do I take time to share my goals for the change and my personal expectations?
- Do I have a consistent message that I repeat often?
- Do I take time to use storytelling to inspire others?
When you stack these micro decisions to listen together, they become a series of decisions in a week, a month, a year. They are a force multiplier to successful change.
Take time to reflect on how you can raise your sponsorship game to the next level. Don’t think you have the time to commit to more listening and support? Perhaps the day you are too busy to listen is a day you are simply too busy.
Francie Van Wirkus is a motivational speaker, author of The Competitor in Me series, and coach. She also works with high-level leadership in the insurance and financial services industry on the most challenging issues facing success today. She can be contacted via her Web site link above.
“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.” - Jimi Hendrix
I’ve been reminded three times this week about how listening within oneself makes all other listening much better. The first occurrence was in yoga, the second was watching kids play soccer, and the third in an NPR piece on mindfulness.
I’ve been a yoga practitioner for decades and most classes begin and end with silence and breathing. At the start of class we close our eyes, sit and breath for a few minutes to help transition from our busy day to our yoga practice. We end class by gathering up what we’ve done in class to prepare us to re-enter the rest of our day.
I suffer from a “monkey mind” that is chattering away instead of staying present within myself. Instead of listening to my breath and clearing my head, I start to think—there’s an endless number of things to think about too, so I lose the intent and beauty of the final posture.
However, this past week at the end of class, I stretched out, blanket over my reclining body, and my monkey mind was still. The instructor’s voice was soothing, but I heard none of her words. As my breathing deepened I “heard” my organs doing their work, muscles sighing as they relaxed, and circulation system flowing throughout my body. There were no separate parts to Marian; we were one—inside and out.
For the rest of that day, and even for days to come, I heard people in new ways—words were packed with meaning, what wasn’t said came to the fore, and my focus on others was total. I’m grateful for the experience and want so to be able to sustain the relationship between what goes on within me and how I interact with others.
The second incident was when I was in Vail watching an extended family member play soccer. At one point in the game, ten-year-old Max, playing midfield, was under siege. He did a masterful job deflecting the attack. On the sidelines there was lots of cheering, but like many an athlete, he never broke concentration.
After the scoreless game ended, I asked Max what that moment was like for him, and he remembered the scene in slow motion. He replied something like, “I heard my heart pumping and my lungs breathing, then after I kicked the ball away from me, I heard my coach saying I did a great job holding position.” Being in the zone like that isn’t rare for an athlete, but what was enlightening to me was that the coach was at the opposite end of the field, out of earshot, and still Max’s auditory acuity was so heightened he could hear the coach’s words, sensing they were for him.
The third occurrence was when listening to NPR, I heard the college professor guest discussing mindfulness, (can you imagine that at most colleges?). He spoke of an undergraduate class he took and the first assignment was to scrutinize a raisin without actually tasting it. I think he said each student had to identify sixty-four different things about the little dried up grape (there were three in those last four words). That experiment was followed by lecture and even more hands-on experiences, all designed to help students become aware of their inner and outer worlds to be mindful at all times and under all circumstances.
So, when people ask me how to become a master listener, do I suggest they study a raisin, concentrate like a competitive athlete, or take up yoga? Maybe. I do know that the kind of listening people yearn for requires the listener to go deep inside to hear all that’s available and to be 100% present with others.
Following are some questions that might help you inventory your listening mindfulness:
- Are you aware of your “monkey mind” or internal chattering that’s happening when you are in an interaction?
- Do you consciously take a deep breath to focus or re-focus your attention on the speaker(s)?
- Have you created techniques to still your inattention? Do you practice those techniques?
- When you are in an interaction do you endeavor to shut out all distractions?
- Can you slow down the speed with which you react to what’s going on around you?
- Do you take time to understand the speaker, as if s/he’s a raisin to be examined before actually beginning an interaction?
- To what extent do you balance listening from within with all that surrounds you?
- Once you are in a state of mindfulness, how do you sustain it under challenging circumstances?
Let us learn how you practice being a mindful listener, and what effect it has on your interpersonal interactions.