The Listening Difference

Listening makes a significant difference in the quality of our relationships, but we often miss opportunities to be better listeners.

Listening is a profound sign of respect. In many cultures the is tehe one who has the autority. When you take the time to listen you elevate the status of the person who’s speaking. To provide some contrast, what status does the person who constantly gets interrupted have?

Meetings are a great opportunity to practice our listening skills. All too often, we’ve gotten in the habit of bringing our devices instead of bringing our attention when we have to meet in a group. I get it, some people have lots of opportunity to be better presenters, and some meeting topics are only tangentially related to your responsibilities. In Project Management (PM) how you listen will determine client success. You can’t afford to miss a cue about a delay to the critical chain and it’s bad business to bulid quality solely from an outdated checklist. [Link]

Unless the device is the tool that allows the meeting to occur, leave the device behind. I’ve had great success working with stakeholders that had difficult reputations by bringing a reusable notebook with me to a meeting. The notebook removes the barrier created by a laptop screen. It creates more interpersonal opportunities.

The fact that I don’t bring a laptop combined with the fact that my notebook is reusable often gets the attention of whomever I speaking with and it ends up being a discussion point. I share how it’s designed for me to take photos of the pages and save my notes digitally. I share how the text washes off with water and uses a comfortable pen. Once we’ve covered the technical capabilities I then get to share the real reason for the notebook.

“What you have to say is important and I didn’t want to put a barrier between me and the things you needed to say, but I still wanted to take notes because what you were going to tell me is important.”

I haven’t met a stakeholder yet offended by that statement.

After the meeting I’ll go over my hand written notes and type up a meeting summary to send to the client.

Hi, XXX this is what we discussed.
– Thing 1
– Thing 2
– Thing 3

I agreed to do the following before our next meeting:
– Thing 1
– Thing 2
– Thing 3

We also agreed that you would do the following
– Thing 1
– Thing 2
– Thing 3

As I get working on my things if I need to ask a follow-up question can I do that over a text message or would you prefer some communication method?

Similarly, the best way to reach me is via text.

It might feel like it takes longer to write things down by hand and type them afterwords, but I’ve found this takes a lot less time than solving the problems of not listening.

But Jacob, what happens if you find you miss something in your notes?

Well, I tell the stakeholder that I was going over my notes and I’d like him to clarify something. If I’ve missed that bullet point all together then I say things like “I was distracted thinking of the second and third order effects of [bullet point 1] that I’m afraid I missed your second point. Would you mind going over that again for me to I know we’re on the same page?

When you head off to your next meeting, ditch the impulse to take your device and instead grab a piece of paper or a reusable notebook (I’m a fan) and sit down and listen.

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