I recently began my 23rd year making a living as an executive coach. My stated goal with each client is to help them get better results by becoming a better leader.
I ply my “trade” by listening deeply to what they have to say to ensure I understand their challenges. I assist them by opening their eyes to different perspectives, theories and performance models. They select their own course of action.
Whether you’re a coach, co-worker, teammate or spouse, here are some key steps for helping connect with others to assist them in analyzing their situations and developing potential solutions when you’re asked. Please note each one involves a different type of listening:
1. Listen to comprehend.
Be sure you have the right context about the topic or focus of the dialogue. This can inform as to why this all matters.
2. Listen to read between the lines.
Ask for others’ insights, opinions and descriptions of the situation when possible.
I do my very best to learn to understand the cultures and operating principles of my clients’ organizations so I can provide my best and most targeted advice. I’m not constrained by all the “noise” they must deal with in their current role. Their habits, experiences, organizational and cultural realities, and risks will always guide our approach.
3. Listen actively to their comments.
Ask questions for clarity along the way – who, what, where, when, why, and how – but just for clarity, not to interrogate or judge.
4. Listen for the outlier ideas.
Keep the discussion on target. Other areas may come up but “PARK” them for later consideration and stay focused on the issue at hand.
5. Listen with your heart and head.
Don’t offer advice/counsel until you feel you done a good job of clarifying the situation.
The Center for Creative Leadership uses the S.B.I. model in probing for clarity. It looks like this:
- SITUATION: a concise description of the situation at hand;
- BEHAVIOR(S): a specific behavior affecting you and/or the organization;
- IMPACT(S): the impact on you, your team, and/or the business.
Such a description will result in a problem well stated.
6. Listen for developing solutions.
Once the problem is clarified, begin to develop possible solutions. Write them down and fine-tune the description for each.
7. Listen for the thought patterns that are happening.
Be aware of pattern recognition. It’s critical for us to make informed quick decisions but if we decide too quickly we may miss other options better suited to resolving the problem.
It’s always best to question whether the pattern you think you’re recognizing is really the one you intended to focus upon.
8. Listen for the wisdom of your suggestions.
Come to some agreement about what to do. If you can’t agree and the issue is not mission-critical, take some time to reflect and then get back together.
True consensus is rarely possible in the fast-paced environments we live in. Be prepared to consider various solutions and help them select one that seems to be the best at the time.
9. Listen to the responses you’ve solicited.
Confirm your agreements in writing and get it communicated to all who need to know.
- Am I sure that I understand another’s situation as thoroughly as possible before pursuing any problem solving with them?
- When someone has decided about the way to resolve a current issue, do they take an adequate amount of time to consider how they will communicate their decision?
- Do they set up a timetable for the review of the effectiveness of the solution they decided upon and obtain whatever lessons learned they can?
Thanks for reading – I hope it provided some useful insights.
Read more: How to Listen Better