The Intentional Organisation - Issue #17 - Intentional Listening
1. Intentional Listening
Today is day 10 of my new professional endeavour. These two weeks have been essentially about listening. As a friend asked me "how do you feel about this start", I've answered that I feel like a sponge. Trying to absorb as many information I can.
I have done so first and foremost with the components of my new team. Understanding their roles not just through job descriptions, but through their wording, has been vital. I tried to get the first glimpse of their perception within the organization from their perspective first.
I have then started listening to internal customers—executives, for sure, and other people within the organization. Next Tuesday I will do an entire day in one store to understand how our shopping experience works.
Listening as an Active Skill
Listening becomes central in this onboarding process. This is not a skill that has always come naturally to me (apparently not to many people). I would tend to capture early on crucial information and jump into solutioning as quickly as possible. At school already, I would rarely listen to the teacher's lessons with full attention, typically reading ahead on the topics discussed. But that approach has some significant limits, that I came to appreciate through my work experience.
First of all, it's not just what people say that is important, but also how they say it. In a moment where everyone's wearing a mask, the non-verbal aspects become even more critical (and difficult to grasp). All the "weak signals" that compose communication are essential to be captured, interpreted and added to the context. In a moment where I am trying to understand my new employer's culture, this level of attention is paramount.
A big part of my learnings in terms of listening has been to become an active listener. Taking notes, acknowledging what people said, recapping key points, demonstrating genuine interest are all elements that improve not just your listening activity, but your perception as a listener.
Moving towards Intentional Listening
This time, however, I felt that this was not enough. I feel the urge to link the active listening component (which you do while you listen to a person), with my tendency to jump into action. I needed something more than purely listening at the moment.
The Disney Institute has an excellent definition for this: Intentional Listening.
Intentional listening is ongoing, proactive listening with a deliberate purpose and the intent to take action.
The focus moves from the moment to the entire building of a relationship. It's about doing that comes after listening.
The rules suggested are pretty simple:
Take specific action based on what you just heard.
Do not take action, and tell people why.
This is one of those examples where simple does not mean easy. Often when you listen to people, especially in a process like onboarding, there are not many actions that you can take immediately. But the value of doing step 1 and 2 is enormous.
For example, I am taking the habit of sending a recap note to everyone I meet. It is not just thanking them for the time, but also identifying at least one action point derived from our interaction. In a few cases, immediate action might be impossible; then it's essential to explain why.
Intentional Listening as Team Habit
One of the resolutions I have taken is to make this Intentional Listening to a habit for the entire team, and, hopefully, for the broader organization. Why? One of the loudest feedback I have heard about my team is that there's often a lack of follow-up. In many ways, the team is overwhelmed, particularly in certain areas. But this is not an excuse to not answer a customer, and not to follow-up. Sometimes maybe just acknowledging that sorry, we don't have the resources to do this.
Abstracting this skill at an organizational level means understanding the difference between lip-service and real customer orientation. Which I feel has a tremendous business value for any organization.
What about you? How good are you at listening? How important do you feel this is?
2. Reading Suggestions
"I dispensed with the false comfort that making detailed plans can bring – and falling back on the notion of control – in what was a highly uncertain environment. Detailed annual plans may have been standard practice a hundred years ago, but in our modern world this is far from ideal.” #FutureofWork
At the heart of coaching approaches lies a dominant 20th century narrative. Coaching, (and leadership) are infused by the ethic of modernity, focusing on individualism, functionalism, scientific… #Leadership
2020 taught us a number of important lessons not least that the field of Human Resources is even more important than we thought it was. We also found out that people analytics can save lives, that employee wellbeing comes first in a crisis and that humans (and the organisations they work for) ... #HR
3. The (un) Intentional Organisation 😁
5. Keeping in Touch
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