How often have you sat through a change program briefing session and thought that the key messages are not addressing the fundamental concerns of the audience? While most progressive organisations are committed to improving communication, that often translates into more talking and less listening. A more inclusive style of communication is needed if you are to accomplish your vision to change the game.
When Dan was appointed to his new role, he did not want to fall into the trap of simply broadcasting his vision. He had been on the receiving end of it too many times. Instead, he kicked off a series of listening events to discover how the team viewed the future. He wanted to know if they shared his conclusion that dramatic change was needed for their survival. They opened up about their concerns and it became clear that they shared his desire for a bold new future for the business. It made a big difference to them that Dan was listening to them and building on what they said. As he began to articulate his vision for the organisation, they recognised that his conclusions were influenced by their feedback and concerns.
Patti Sanchez in her HBR article, The Secret to Leading Organizational Change Is Empathy suggests that how information is communicated to employees during a change matters more than what information is communicated. She believes that a lack of audience empathy when conveying news about an organisational transformation can cause it to fail.
But how do you empathise and listen? Research conducted by Zenger Folkman on what constitutes good listening has some interesting conclusions:
Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks.
Good listening included interactions that build a person’s self-esteem.
Good listening was seen as a cooperative conversation.
Good listeners tended to make suggestions.
Their findings challenge the notion that being a good listener is like being a sponge that accurately absorbs what the other person is saying. Instead they suggest that good listeners are more like trampolines. “They make you feel better not merely passively absorbing, but by actively supporting. This lets you gain energy and height, just like someone jumping on a trampoline.”
Are you practising the art of inclusive conversation?
Best regards, Brian
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