Seek first to understand, then be understood. Stephen Covey had it right when it came to relationships, and this is just as critical in working with partnerships and teams as any other relationship. In order to be effective in getting people to work together, the best thing to do is to LISTEN.
Intuitively, I knew this was important, but I had no idea quite how powerful it would be until I took on a leadership role several years ago. I was hired to lead a partnership and knew that there were some challenges and concerns among several partners. People weren’t happy, weren’t showing up to meetings and were acting in very passive-aggressive ways. It was a “sinking ship” if we didn’t do something differently. My initial tendency was to try to make some quick changes and see what might happen – hoping that they would be the right decisions. However, in this situation, I knew that I didn’t fully know what the issues were or what needed to change, so I decided to ask some questions. My co-lead and I decided to visit our key partners at their offices and ask just a few questions. Then we listened, took notes and listened some more. We didn’t need to have any answers or solutions at this point in the relationship. We just needed to listen! Here are the 3 questions we asked them:
- What was working well?
- What was not working well?
- What would they like to see changed?
Boy howdy, they talked and talked and talked. (Yes, I’m revealing my southern girl roots…:) Amazingly, they all said VERY similar things. It turns out there was a silent majority who independently suggested the same changes! We would have never known this if we hadn’t taken the time to meet with them, ask just a few questions and listen!
How has listening helped your partnership or team?