• Dr. Jill Jay

Is Your Team Listening? Influential Conversations for Success by Dr. Jill Jay

We’re more connected today than ever before. Teams are either working from

home or in a flex environment. Keeping engagement and communication open can be rather daunting. And if there are performance problems? Well, that can be the most difficult issue of all. How do you communicate to your team or leadership there are changes which need to be made to move the business forward?

Do you make them part of the conversation or do you talk at them? Do you talk about problems with performance or do you talk around it? If how you talk about an issue offers no clear definition of the problem and no course of action, this is a lose-lose situation rather than a win-win. So, how do we turn it around? Here are some steps you may find helpful.

What Kind of Conversation Do You Need to Have?

If we imagine bringing up tough issues will provoke a defensive, counter-productive exchange, we’re not giving much credence to our people. Let’s ask ourselves, first, how our own reasoning and actions have contributed to the problem we face. Could our own perceptions and views be making things worse?

The other thing to ask ourselves is what kind of conversation do we need to have. How dire is the problem and how open is our relationship with our team? Consider this. When we’re faced with discussing performance issues there are two types of conversations we can have for open dialogue.

  • Stagnate and conditioned. We tell our people what we think is wrong and tell them how we think things should be corrected. Or we ask for opinions without really listening. We are conditioned to avoid saying what we really think and can stifle dialogue which can help us improve as listeners and leaders.

  • Radical candor. Without conflict or embarrassment, we communicate clearly. We offer our opinion and expect others to offer theirs leaving no room for interpretation or misrepresentation.

Many of us know radical candor is the better conversation style, but what can we do to

prepare? What do we need to know first?

Stephen R. Covey explains it best when he says, "Listen with the intent to understand." It sounds good, but what does it mean? And how can we best facilitate his advice?

The first step is to identify how you listen. There are three listening styles and they are reflective listening, active listening, and power listening. What these have in common is that they are all done with intent. Poor listening skills lead to misunderstandings, hurt, anger, resentment, and frustration. Here are 9 helpful listening skills that you can begin to implement right away.

9 Ways to Focus Your Listening Skills

1. Turn off and tune out distractions – phone, email, chatter

2. Quiet your mind

3. Be intentional and fully present - don’t rehearse what you’re going to say in rebuttal

4. Listen to the words, tone of voice, and what is not being said

5. Watch the speaker’s body language and facial expression

6. If advice is asked for, give it. But don’t offer it without request

7. Avoid judgement

8. Listen for intent, don’t interrupt, and provide feedback

9. Clarify your understanding of what’s being said

We may not be able to do all of the above all of the time, but it’s the effort which means the

most. From time to time, there may be emotions which have run high from past slights,

misunderstandings, and resentments. These can lead to defensiveness and cynicism. But with empathy, curiosity, intent, and mindfulness these challenges can be met and migrated with success.

- Dr. Jill Jay

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