Focused Listening

Focused listening is a key component to being a Level Five leader. At today’s modern pace, often with the intention of multitasking, information can be lost. Conversations end up needing to be repeated. Meetings are held, but is everyone truly “present?” Meetings are held, but is everyone truly "present?" Focused listening is required.

In a hybrid, remote/in-person world that many are now in, these issues can be even more common.

Not only does good listening enable team members to communicate effectively, but it helps build better relationships and trust across the entire organization (which is especially important if some of the team is remote/virtual).

So… how do we address the concern that we aren’t actually hearing our fellow team members with real detail? By becoming focused listeners.

Here are five simple and direct strategies I’ve learned from my experience that will help ensure everyone is listening and stays on the same page:

  1. Eliminate the distractors. Put down your smartphone, and turn off your notifications for the duration of the conversation.
  2. Emphasize face-to-face, and one-on-one. In person: stand up from the desk, if needed… be in the moment. Make eye contact. Virtually: wherever possible, make the extra time to do one-on-one virtual meetings with team members, as opposed to mass/group meetings. Note the body language and facial expressions of team members — they can be early signs of struggles or concerns they have yet to articulate.
  3. Take notes. Use a 3×5 card and write down the key details of the discussion. Not only is it a demonstrative way of showing that you are listening, but it can also be an important reference later on.
  4. Backbrief. At the end of the conversation, review the important points that were talked about. If something was “lost in translation,” this is a quick and easy way to discover that. Sorting out misunderstandings early can save your team headaches down the road. Making focused listening the norm will create a better work culture.
  5. Set a standard. Establish that this kind of behavior is what “right” looks like. If all team members and leaders of your organization use the above methods on a regular basis, you’ll set a higher level of expectation of what “listening” should be: Focused Listening can become your norm.

Enjoy the journey!

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(Based off a post originally published in 2018)