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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Strategic Listening

According to Tom, "the single most significant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization: strategic listening to frontline employees, strategic listening to vendors, to customers."

Tom has created a great interlude about why strategic listening is necessary but what does this mean and how do we listen in this way.

The following information is adapted from: ©Chris Witt, all rights reserved. www.wittcom.com
Communication occurs on one to as many as four different levels at any given time:

    1. Facts
    2. Meaning
    3. Feelings
    4. Intention

For example, "The house is burning" is a simple, straight-forward statement.  But those four words — depending on how they are said — may mean:

   · "A residential structure is being consumed by flames." (Facts)
   · "The house we're in is on fire." (Meaning)
   · "Ahhhh!!!!" (Feelings)
   · "Run for your life." (Intention)

Maybe we are not listening but perhaps we don't understand how to listen so we hear the complete communication at all levels.  Strategic listening allows you to hear the various messages people are communicating. 

Level 1 The Facts
People want to:           Convey information.
Our task is to:             Listen for details and clarify.
We need to ask:          "Who? What? Where? When? Why?
Our goal is to:             Picture the situation as the person is
                                    describing it.

Level 2 Meaning
People want to:           Make themselves understood.
Our task is to:             Listen for the big picture; summarize and
We need to ask:          "Am I understanding you correctly?"
                                    "Is this what you're getting at?"
Our goal is to:             Understand what the person means —
                                    and make the other  person feel

Level 3 Feelings
People want to:           Connect on an emotional level.
Our task is to:             Listen with empathy; pay attention to
                                    body language and tone of voice.
We need to ask:          "How does this make you feel?"
                                    "It sounds to me like you're feeling..."
Our goal is to:             Recognize how the person is feeling —
                                    and make the other person feel

Level 4 Intention
People want to:           Get their needs met.
Our task is to:             Listen for wants and needs; focus on
                                    solutions, action steps, and outcomes.
We need to ask:          "What do you want to have happen?"
                                    "What would help you in this situation?"
                                    "What can you/we do about it?"
Our goal is to:             Know what the person wants to achieve.

By understanding what people want to say, what we are to do, and what follow-up questions to ask we can accomplish the goal of hearing the complete message.  Whether you are a team leader or a team member listening is a significant part of your role.  Don't be an eighteen-second manager.  Take the time to listen strategically to employees, vendors, and customers.

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1 comment:

  1. This is good practice, Tim. Strategic Listening appears to be an application of critical thinking skills to examine what we THINK we know in order to challenge our own assumptions. I found this definition from Professor Brad Dowden of Cal State U. in Sacramento (http://www.csus.edu/indiv/d/dowdenb/):

    A critical thinker has an attitude–an attitude of desiring to avoid nonsense, to find the truth and to discover the best action. It’s an attitude that rejects “intuiting” the truth in favor of demanding reasons. To be a critical thinker you need to be fair and open-minded even with people you disagree with. You need to give them a fair hearing because your goal is the truth or the best action. Your goal isn’t just to confirm what you already believe.”

    Bob Sutton recently posted to his blog that there's nothing new under the sun when it comes to management. I agree, but I do like the way the Strategic Llistening concept breaks down and presents the necessary components to effective leadership, listening and critical thinking practices.

    Here's a link to Bob Sutton's article:(http://bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/08/why-bosses-ought-to-be-more-interested-in-what-is-true-than-what-is-new.html)