Member Skip Hilton Speaks: Become a Better Listener

The Challenge:

The situation at hand was brought by an executive who received feedback from his team that he was not listening and processing their feedback in the meetings. He was interested in developing his listening skills upon receiving constructive feedback from his team, and seeking insight into a strategy that would strengthen his professional relationships.

If you were in this situation, what would you do?

If I were in your shoes, I would take notes on my internal thoughts while in meetings, whether it be a one-on-one or a larger conference. I carry around a small notebook or even a post-it pad can work for this purpose. This strategy has many benefits: it communicates to the speaker that I’m actively listening to them, and also allows me to capture my own thoughts so I can reflect and provide constructive feedback. Most importantly, it prevents my inner talk track from taking over which often leads to a propensity to interrupt.

To be blunt, I find that I interrupt my colleagues more frequently when I think I may be belaboring a point or “selling past the close,” or where I feel their input is providing diminishing returns to the discussion. Another tactic to counteract the impulse to interrupt - and strengthen both my active listening skills and my professional relationships - is to keep tally marks to track each moment I feel compelled to interrupt. Afterwards, when I reflect on the meeting, I can challenge myself to see if I learned something new by refraining from interrupting, or if there were moments where I could have interjected without harm. Often, I find that I learn something new that I wouldn’t have absorbed had I interrupted.

There’s a technique we practice in our Alliance groups that helps me guide my professional conversations. In Alliance group meetings, we actively listen to what is being said by our fellow members and then wait until they’re done speaking. All questions are asked before diving into any insight we might offer. We preface our thoughts by explaining that it’s what we would do if we were in their shoes, which upholds an understanding of mutual respect. Part of what I enjoy the most about the Alliance is the practical insight gained using this time-tested approach. Best of luck!