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    Entries in listen (3)


    I hear what you're saying. Oh really?

    Teleconference, phone hook up or remote meeting: the bottom line is, you're talking but you can't see each other. 

    You can't see facial expressions, body language or pick up on those many subtle cues that the stars of Lie to Me were so clever at identifying and deciphering. 

    But you do have your ears. 

    And you need to tune those ears in with greater attention than you do in a normal face-to-face meeting. 

    I outlined in an earlier post that you have voice tone, volume and speed to listen in to and to notice the subtle shifts and changes. This is powerful when you can see people in a workshop or meeting, but even more powerful when it's all you've got on a phone hookup. 

    I think it's the best 'test' of whether someone is REALLY listening - you go beyond hearing the words that are spoken and are able to pick up on the delivery, how it is said. Then you can go from there - you can ask another (better) question or you can check, clarify and go deeper to work out what might not have been said. 

    Listen up folks! This is the listening you need to put to work everyday to make sure you really do hear what people are saying. 


    What's an important point ... and what's 'waffle'?

    When I'm facilitating, leading a team session or working with visuals to capture people's thinking (and talking), some feedback I often get throughout the session is - how did you know what the key point was they were trying to make?

    People say a-lot of stuff. Sometimes it's their own thinking, working out their views as they're speaking. Sometimes ideas haven't formed yet. Other times, their opinions are changing as they're speaking. 

    But here's how I really know when someone is getting to their gold nugget, their kernel, the essence of their point.... their voice changes. You just need to listen. 

    One of my earlier 'careers' was in radio, voiceovers and creating voice characters. I spent many hours speaking into a microphone, hearing it in headphones and then adjusting pace, tone, volume ever so slightly. 

    This is the stuff to listen out for - this is when you'll be guided to what people are saying... when they are making an important point and when they are, well, adding to that point. 

    • Tone change: it won't be as drastic as from a deep baritone to a high soprano, but people's voices will shift from lower registers to higher (or higher to lower) when they're getting emotional and getting to the point
    • Volume change: think of our voices like a volume dial - we have low and soft down at levels 1, 2, 3 and higher at 6, 7, 8. Ten is heavy metal stuff. Listen for when volume increases. A key point will be delivered right there. 
    • Pace change: when people s-l-o-w down their speech, there can be emphasis there. When theyarespeedingup, there can be energy, passion and enthusiasm there. Their brains are working faster or slower, there is an important point here for them. 

    Listen up. It's all there. Along with the content of what people are saying, listen for how it's delivered. Then you'll be more likely to pick up their important points and those that are further down their list. 


    12 ways to boost engagement  

    People engaging in your message isn’t their responsibility... it’s yours!

    Here are a dozen things to do even better.

    1.In the eyes...
    Establish and maintain eye contact with people. Break that eye contact so you’re not getting accused of stalking, but avoid the ‘fluttery-closed-eyelids’ thing while talking or the ‘looking-over-there’ while talking. Look at people when they’re speaking to you. Simple but not often done well.

    2.Ask Questions
    There’s too much telling (pushing people away) and not enough asking (engaging people) going on in meetings, conversations, consultations. 

    3.Facilitate a team conversation
    Rather than being part of the problem of clutter in a team meeting or conversation, step up and facilitate it. Confirm what the group’s trying to do, summarise what’s going on and where you’re all at, and then suggest some next steps.

    4.Capture the conversation
    Either on your note pad, ipad or flip chart pad, start catching some key points that people are sprouting in that meeting you’re in. Too many ‘and the essence is’ or ‘what I’m really saying is’ are lost and go way off up into the ether because they’re not captured anywhere. Write a few down and you’ll soon see where you agree, disagree and need to close the gap on thinking.

    5.Ditch PowerPoint
    Yep. Turn it off. Challenge yourself to truly engage with your audience, stakeholders or colleagues by using #6 below. I mean it. You’ll probably want to run back and hide behind your multi-page pack, but engage with people using dynamic, real time visuals. Keep PowerPoint packs for the hefty spreadsheets and detail, not the dot points.

    6.Catch-it on a Flip Chart
    Visual thinking works. Get yourself a good black chisel tipped marker (bullet tips are for babies) and step up to the flip chart or whiteboard and depict your key points. You won’t look like a fool; you’ll actually look more like you know what you’re saying. You’re displaying the clarity in your thinking by being able to summarise it up there.

    7.Use visuals to explain
    When you’re doing that flip charting and whiteboarding, use a few words and a few visuals. As Dan Roam says in his new book ‘Blah Blah Blah’, you need
    visuals + verbals to get clarity. So a stick figure with the word ‘customers’ next to it is ace. A square with the words ‘regional office’ written in it is even better. Stay simple to boost engagement. Don’t be too smart; it’s not about the art.

    8.Listen to yourself
    Most mobile phones, portable devices and handhelds have a voice memo or recording option. Hit record during your next meeting or conversation for the purposes of listening to yourself, not others. Listen to what you sound like, what you said, how you said it, when you interrupted and the tone of your voice. Unless you shriek ‘Is that what I sound like?’, you’re not listening critically enough. How could you do this better?

    9.Listen to others
    You don’t need to record others in meetings (creepy, unethical perhaps!) but do listen to them. Won’t you? If you want to be truly engaging you’ll summarise back what they said. “So you’re saying is that right?”. Get rid of those disengaging phrases like ‘I hear what you’re saying …’ or ‘I’ll take that on board’. Yawn. ‘Go away’ is what you’re really saying.

    10.Say ‘yes and…’
    Take a tip from the best improvisers around the world and build on people’s
    suggestions, ideas and contributions (by saying ‘yes and…’), rather than blocking them (when you say ‘yes, but…’). Listen out for the ‘clunk’ next time you ‘yes but’ someone in the head. ‘Yes and’ will grow the enthusiasm, energy and creativity.

    11.Relaaaaaax your neck, shoulders and your jaw
    There’s a fair bit of hunch-backing going on in the workplace. The tension, uncertainty and pressure is often reflected in furrowed brows and shrill voices. Relax your neck, shoulders and jaw. Drop your shoulders from way up near your ears (where they might be right now); have a breath and open your jaw and bite (while keeping your mouth closed). Check in on that one throughout the day. Those shoulders have a way of climbing back up to your ears again!

    12.Put ‘em into practice
    Print this, bookmark it, email it, copy it. You’ve read it now, during the lead up to the silly season. Have another read in the new year, in 2012 and note which ones you’ll do each day, each hour, each minute. You’ll be oh-so engaging!