Tag Archives: Listening

Our Agile #transformation is struggling without #management support — can’t we just fire them all!

While nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer, nothing is more difficult than to understand him. ~Fyodor Dostoevsky

A significant number of agile coaches and agile zealots often portray managers as evildoers. But, how often do these agilists:

  • Practice empathy and try to put themselves in the manager’s shoes?
  • Consider the very real fears that managers have to face — fear of looking silly, fear of all their effort over the years coming to nought, fear of being sidelined, fear of taking “unnecessary” risks, fear of not delivering and looking bad?
  • Say what needs to be said without embarrassing, humiliating, or otherwise offending the manager’s self-worth?
  • Make the managers “feel felt?” Not just heard, but also being aware of and demonstrating awareness of how the managers are feeling and the emotions they are grappling with.
  • Take the time to understand what managers want, what they feel, what they struggle with, what they enjoy, what irritates them, what they fear, what pressures they face, …?
  • Realize that managers feel lost in the new world and are asking for help in making the change stick?
  • Suggest approaches that works smoothly and take a load off managers’ shoulders?
  • Spend time 1-on-1 with the managers to guide them in impediment removal and more importantly in creating the right structures of fulfillment?
  • Spend time 1-on-1 with the managers in co-designing a step-by-step approach versus just talking in generalities?

Not very often, I presume. It’s so much easier to point fingers than to consider your own role in exacerbating an “unseemly” situation. So is it any surprise that a potential ally is often turned off by the behavior of the change agents?

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Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Agile, Coaching


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Becoming a better listener …

Do you think you are a poor listener or do others perceive you to be one? Have you ever been told that you aren’t listening? If yes, then this blog post may help you become a more engaged and active listener.

Here are five things you can do to become better at listening:

  1. Remove distractions to permit paying full attention to the conversation. Put your phone aside and stop glancing towards your laptop. For the duration of the conversation just think that the person talking to you is the most important person in the world and deserves your full attention.
  2. Use reflective listening. Active listening involves paraphrasing what the speaker said to check clarity. Reflective listening implies that you also pay attention to emotional elements and non-verbal cues. The goal is to undertand the other, not just hear her.
  3. Genuinely empathize with the speaker’s point of view — look at things from her perspective and feel what she feels about the topic at hand.
  4. Be non-judgmental — judging or arguing prematurely is a result of holding onto a strict personal opinion. Set aside your opinions and views for a bit while only hearing and understanding the person speaking. Ask her questions to understand why she is making the statement she is — what facts is she looking at, what assumptions is she making, what unspoken beliefs are influencing her reach the conclusion she is reaching. Finally, remember that the opposite of what you know is also true. So, don’t judge others by what you believe because their perspective on reality is as valid as your own. No matter how certain you are that you’re saying or doing the “right thing”, you must humbly accept the possibility that someone who says or does the exact opposite from you might actually be doing the “right thing” as well. Imposing your values and beliefs on others is a sure way of generating resistance and antagonism.
  5. Trust that you can add value after listening (rather than doing so during listening). Let the other person speak without interrupting her.

Despite your best intentions of being a good listener, there are numerous pitfalls that can sidetrack you during a conversation. Some of these are:

  • Dreaming / Drifting off
  • Rehearsing what you’ll say in response
  • Preparing for the counterattack — planning your own defense or how you’re going to cross-examine the speaker while she’s still speaking
  • Selectively hearing only what you want to hear
  • Inability to stay on the subject and constantly changing it
  • Being overly sensitive to emotional “hooks”
  • Agreeing with everything you hear just to be nice or to avoid conflict
  • Mentally tuning out when a topic seems new or too difficult
  • Referring everything you hear to your experience
  • Assessing/prematurely judging the messenger or the message
  • Interrupting constantly
  • Belittling or discounting what you hear

Pay attention to what’s going on in your mind and catch yourself if you are getting sidetracked. If you find yourself babbling or interrupting constantly, use the acronym WAIT — ask yourself, “Why Am I Talking?” Bring your attention back to the speaker, her words, her emotions. Remember, if she doesn’t feel heard it’s a good indicator that you aren’t listening.

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Posted by on January 24, 2015 in Coaching


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