Art of Listening

Next

Part 1

Generous Listening

Relationship Dance

Because of time pressures Mark used to give quick answers to employee's questions.  Rather than probing for what was behind the questions, Mark went for the most expedient solution, so he could get on to his next meeting or task.  Mark's conversation style and his lack of relationship skills perpetuated the need for multiple  meetings to clarify the hasty answers given to Dave and others. 

On Dave’s part, when he did ask for time with Mark, to clarify priorities or to get feedback on a project, he felt rushed by Mark and shortchanged.  Dave unconsciously tried to extend the time he had with Mark by including numerous details that he felt were necessary to explain his position.  The effect of this was to force Mark to truncate the conversation with a quick solution.  The result of this quick answer was that Dave had to repeatedly return to Mark with portions of the same problem.  A problem that had not been explored deeply enough to be resolved the first time.  A “relationship dance” took place using up valuable time going over the same facts several times.

Mark now employees “Generous Listening” and “Questioning Questions” skills to get to the root of Dave’s problem fast, saving both of them a great deal of time and frustration.  Instead of wasting time with multiple meeting, Mark can use Questioning Questions to:

  • Transfer QQ skills to employees.
  • Save time while still showing interest & concern for their problems & ideas.
  • Delegate when appropriate; allowing employees to trust themselves and solve their own issues.

Successful Listening - “How would you like me to listen to you?”

We are often unsuccessful in conversations because we assume we know how the other person wants us to engage them.  We become perplexed and frustrated when our well-meaning silence, questions, criticisms or personal antidotes upset the person.  Our intentions were good, but somehow our behavior has upset them.  In the case of listening, few have had the advantage of a parent or mentor with skills to set up a conversation for success.

  • If you want to save time and shorten a conversation learn to use the Questioning Questions skill.

Successful Listening is about setting up a conversation that allows the other person to feel that we want to be in dialogue with them. To be successful we need to ask questions that clarify how they would like us to behave during and at he end of the conversation.  In other words, how they would like us to listen and respond. The method of listening is frequently determined by the mood of the person and the subject being discussed.  Like any tool or technique, it can be over used or misused.  Here is a guideline:

  • When a person is very emotional, it is a good idea to ask before the conversation begins, “How would you like me to listen to you!” 
  • When in a conversation that starts cordial and soon become challenging, it would be a good idea to interrupt and ask the same question.

Successful Listening Exercise

  • First, start off by asking, “How would you like me to listen to you!” 
  • Second, give the person one of the following options:

“Would you like me interrupt and ask questions as you talk?”

“Would you like me to interrupt, tell you my experience & give suggestions as you talk?”

“Would you like me to be silent and respond when you indicate your ready?”

“Would you like me to hold my questions or comments until the end?”

“Would you like to just talk and end the conversation without a response from me?”


                                            Part 2

Listen or Solve – Managing Problems in One-quarter Time


Prerequisite Tools & Techniques:

Intentional Language

OREO

Generous Listening

Question Questions

Pushing and Pulling Questions

 

Boss

Few business issues consume a leader’s time and intelligence more than the break down of communications among employees.

Differences in employee’s experience, personality, culture, position, age and education make for difficult interactions. These, combined with a general mistrust of diversity and change, make the process of resolving communication problems disconcerting and uncomfortable for leaders.

Someone made a compelling point when they lamented, “80 percent of business is maintenance.” Relationship maintenance is influenced by such tasks as travel, staying on task, interruptions, crises, attendance at meetings, managing e-mail and reacting to other non-work related problems. These all erode employees time.  These time consuming issues often make it hard to focus on the crucial priorities that positively shape the bottom line.

TRUTH: The majority of the "80 percent of maintenance" is an attempt to protect our selves from relationships that have become dysfunctional.  

Dysfunctional-Relationship-Maintenance involves using your time in such activities as attending meetings where your presence is not essential; listening to points of view that make no business sense, or the handling of people problems that should be resolved by highly paid reports.

Indicators of Failing Communication Models that signals the need for intervention:

  • Inappropriate communications under stress
  • Unsuccessful or delays in hiring new staff
  • Doing tasks, rather than delegating to others
  • Ineffective meeting leadership
  • Excessive meeting time
  • Absenteeism or tardiness
  • Inability to complete assignments
  • Being uncooperative with others
  • Indecisive when clarity is essential

These behavioral indicators, signals if you will, suggest that some missing communication skill is lacking in the person’s relationship model.  These inappropriate behaviors leave the person with feelings ranging from embarrassment to righteous indignation. 

TRUTH: Whether justified or not, the outcome of the dysfunctional communication & resulting residue, was not what the leader intended.  These poor communications also fall short of common professional standards of behavior.  More than any time in modern history, business success is centered on a higher level of required skills for business relationships and communications.

Employee

Sitting silently, looking alternatively at your boss and then out the window, you nod at appropriate times but remain a passive listener.  Your boss does not solicit feedback or questions that would corroborate that what he is saying is hitting home. He believes that his words alone will deliver measurable results. Lacking real-time collaboration, he will most likely drone on to the end of the meeting time.  Hope springs eternal in your boss as he leaves the room.

Passive listening has a place at the opera, during a funeral or at quiet time in the Small Wonders day care center between 1 and 3 PM.  However, for the rest of interpersonal communications Deep Listening is a better alternative.  

Deep Listening

Deep Listening is defined by the first person statement:

“I feel listened to when you ask me questions about what I am talking about.  Questions that continually deepen my thinking process. Questions that help me reach a solution or understand my work or myself more fully.  Questions that allow me to make a decision or solve a problem.”

Deep Listening moves the conversation downwards from a perplexing issue towards the underlying problem.  Often this is not reflected in the original question or statement.

Deep Listening allows the person being listened to to feel seen, understood, accepted, chosen and valued.

Deep listening accomplishes this by asking question about a phrase or word to cause the speaker to pause an reflex.  This momentary reflection causes the person to move away from their main track and enter the realm of more specific detail.  By continuing this line of questioning, rather than answering their first thoughts, the person is able to retrieve an answer that was hidden.


Types of Listening

Passive Listening

Imagine sitting silently, looking alternatively out the window and then at your boss as he speaks.  You nod at appropriate times, but remain a passive listener.  You have other concerns on your mind.

Your boss does not invite dialogue, solicit feedback, and ask for questions or any other interaction that would corroborate that what he is saying has been heard.  He believes that his words alone will deliver results.

He will most likely drone on to the end of the meeting time without a single recognition of those present. He feels his ideas were well received, since there were no questions, as he leaves the room for his next appointment.

Passive listening has a place at the opera, during a funeral or at story time at the local day care center’s storytelling session.  However, for the rest of our adult, personal and work communications, “Generous Listening” is a better alternative.

Generous Listening

The following “first person” statement defines what Generous Listening feels like:

“I feel listened to when asked:

Specific questions about what I am talking about (not about what your thinking).

Specific questions that help me clarify my words & meaning.

Specific questions that remind me to slow down and deepen my thinking about what I am saying.

Specific questions that assist me in reaching a decision, or help me understand and solve an issue in a new way.”

Overall, I feel drawn into the conversation and compelled to respond to your questions when I feel you value my contribution.

Generous Listening is:

A conversation that first identifies specific words or phrases that act as doorways to a deeper clarity.  Then, using those words or phrases, asks precise questions that naturally pulls the speaker into a deeper conversation.

A conversation that allows surface ideas to be shifted, by questioning key words or phrases, towards the underlying cause or meaning.  Then optional solutions to resolve the problem can be decided upon.

A conversation that asks questions, which leave the person being listened to, to feel seen, understood, accepted, chosen and valued.

The Generous Listener accomplishes this by interrupting the person’s train of thought and asking questions about phrases or words that cause the speaker to pause and reflex on what they are saying. 

For example:

Dave, an employee, says, “ I am really having trouble with the purchasing group.  Every time I hand in a requisition for supplies or equipment, they give me the third degree, and . . .”

Mark, the Deep Listener and Dave’s boss, interrupts and says,

“I understand your upset, however let me ask you a few clarifying questions.  First, has this problem really occurred every time or just recently since the company has tightened its belt?”  Dave responds that it has just been since the belt tightening.

Mark asks, “Dave, it would be helpful to know who the “they” are.  Is it one person or the whole purchasing group?”  Dave says it is specifically two people.

Mark pulls Dave further into the conversation by saying, “ I believe you are just trying to get the supplies necessary for your group to do their work.  So, tell me a little about this term you used, ‘the third degree’, that you felt these two people subjected you to.

Dave says, “I felt very little trust or respect coming from them.  I felt like I was presumed a subversive and a cheat before I was asked what I needed.  They acted like they worked for some other company.”

This “interruption” caused Dave to move away from his hardwired track and enter the realm of specific detail.  By continuing this line of questioning, rather than reacting to Dave’s first thoughts, Mark is able to retrieve details hidden beneath Dave’s reactions.

Mark says, “I have felt this way at times in my career.  Most often when the company I was working for was struggling to survive the times.  Much like now, because of the economy, our resources are lean and controlled.

Dave, can you understand that the purchasing people may be also feeling the stress of the belt tightening?  Can you put your self in their shoes?  The question I would like you to consider is, what do you think is missing for the purchasing folks? Under the current stress of having to say no to everyone, what is missing for the two people you mentioned?”

Dave responds, “ Your right.  I did not put my self in their shoes, nor did I consider I was just one of many employees asking them to approve my requisition.  As far as what they are missing, it is probably similar to what I felt with a lack of trust or respect.

Mark interrupts again to shorten the conversation by saying, “Does it make sense to use the OREO* technique to include value statements that would open them to the conversation?  Why don’t you try this skill we learned and see them melt before your eyes.”

Dave agrees to go back, try again, and then report back to Mark on his success with getting what he needs from Purchasing.

Dave felt justified in being upset with Purchasing.  After all, their job was to get him what his group needed to work efficiently.  Mark helped Dave transition from a hardwired position, to a position of being empathic with co-workers during cutbacks in staff and funds.  From the co-worker or partner position, everyone’s Core Intentions are a part of all conversations.

As illustrated in the above conversation, Mark used Deep Listening to give Dave a feeling of a value as he tried to resolve his problem.  Mark asked key questions to deepen the conversation and pull Dave into the conversation.  He interrupts Dave at the appropriate moment and began to guide the conversation towards partnership with the two people in Purchasing. 

 

OREO technique – Go to page 37 in this chapter.

 Successful Listening - “How would you like me to listen to you!”

We are often unsuccessful in conversations because we assume we know how the other person wants us to engage them.  We become perplexed and frustrated when our well-meaning silence, questions, criticisms or personal antidotes upset the person.  Our intentions were good, but somehow our behavior has upset them.  In the case of listening, few have had the advantage of a parent or mentor with skills to set up a conversation for success.

Successful Listening is about setting up a conversation that allows the other person to feel that we want to be in dialogue with them. To be successful we need to ask questions that clarify how they would like us to behave during and at he end of the conversation.  In other words, how they would like us to listen and respond. The method of listening is frequently determined by the mood of the person and the subject being discussed.  Like any tool or technique, it can be over used or misused.  Here is a guideline:

When a person is very emotional, it is a good idea to ask before the conversation begins, “How would you like me to listen to you!” 

When in a conversation that starts cordial and soon become challenging, it would be a good idea to interrupt and ask the same question.

 

Successful Listening Exercise

 

First, start off by asking, “How would you like me to listen to you!” 

 

Second, give the person two or more of the following options:

 

“Would you like me interrupt and ask questions as you talk?”

“Would you like me to interrupt and tell you my experience & give suggestions as you talk?”

“Would you like me to be silent and respond when you indicate your ready?”

“Would you like me to hold my questions or comments until the end?”

“Would you like to just talk, and then end the conversation without a response from me?”

 Listen or Solve – Managing Problems in One-quarter Time

 

Prerequisite Tools & Techniques:

Intentional Language

OREO

Generous Listening

Question Questions

Pushing and Pulling Questions

 

Purpose

 

Few business issues consume a leader’s time and intelligence more than altercations caused by the break down of interpersonal communications among employees.

 

Differences in employee’s experience, personality, culture, position, age and education make judgment difficult. These combined with a general mistrust of diversity and change, make the process of resolving communication breakdowns disconcerting and uncomfortable for leaders.

 

Adding to the diversity of people in the work place, someone made a compelling point when they lamented that, “80 percent of life is maintenance.” Relationship maintenance at work alone, such as travel, staying on task, interruptions, crises, attendance at meetings, managing e-mail and reacting to other non-work related problems, can take a chunk out of employees time.  These time consuming issues often make it hard to focus on the crucial priorities that positively shape the bottom line.

 

However, the majority of the 80 percent of maintenance is a diversion from or attempt to protect our selves from relationships that have become challenging.  Dysfunctional relationship maintenance involves such activities as attending meetings where your presence is not essential; listening to points of view that make no business sense, or the handling of people problems that should be resolved by highly paid reports.

 

Indicators of Failing Communication Models that signals the need for intervention:

 

Inappropriate communications under stress

Unsuccessful or delays in hiring new staff

Doing tasks, rather than delegating to others

Ineffective meeting leadership

Excessive absenteeism or tardiness

Inability to complete assignments

Uncooperative with others

Indecisive when clarity is essential

 

 

These behavioral indicators, signals if you will, suggest that some missing communication skill is lacking in the person’s inter-relationship model.  These inappropriate behaviors leave the person with feelings ranging from embarrassment to righteous indignation. 

 

Whether justified or not, the outcome of the dysfunctional communication & resulting residue was not what the person intended.  These communications also falls short of common professional standards of behavior.  More than any time in modern history, business success is centered on a higher level of required skills for business relationships and communications.

 

Forces that Compound Communication Dysfunction

 

Conflicting communications, radically different personalities (hardwiring), a variety of work and political styles all put a strain on leader’s when managing employee’s difficult behavior.  Even with the best of intentions managers soon become frustrated with the amount of time consumed when forced to handle people issues rather than work related goals. 

 

Leaders most troublesome blind spot, when mediating conflict, is the assumption that employees know how to solve their interpersonal disputes.  So many employees are sent right back into the fray to solve the problem on their own.  This borders on insanity – sending employees back to do the same thing that did not work the first, second or third time!

 

What is needed is a relationship/communication model that sends employees back to difficult relationship problems with new skills that will remedy the following:

 

·      Misunderstandings – The endless re-hashing of different points of view;

·      Gossip & Backbiting – The spreading of irrelevant information about other people’s behavior or ideas throughout the organization;

·      Chronic Triage – The attempt to categorize & resolve recurrent, shifting issues without success; and

·      Waste – The time, resources and productivity wasted by a lack of effective relationship skills.

 

Two Choices: Listen or Solve

 

When employees request time to meet, we can either

Listen

to their requests, complaints, suggestions, or we can help them

Solve

their issues. Distinguishing between the processes of Listening and Solving can reduce to one quarter the time normally used to help employees resolve personal and professional issues.

 

Combined with the “Questioning Questions” tool, the “Listen or Solve” technique will dramatically alter the way leaders manage employee issues.

 

Common Sense

 

The truth about solving issues can be stated so:

·     

 

If an employee knew how to solve their request, complaint or suggestion successfully, they would not have asked you for time to talk about it. 

 

The very fact that a problem remains unresolved, or that an employee is requesting time from the boss, says something is missing.  What is most often missing is appropriate language and new skill that will move a struggling relationship out of an impasse to resolution.  Relationships between employees can be bogged down by personal style, attitudes, behaviors or personalities.  “Bogged down” means the use of default (hardwired) communication behavior repeatedly with unsatisfactory results.

 

Case Study

 

As an illustration, the following represents the kind of no-help response employees might get from their managers:

 

Dave (employee) says to Mark (his manager), “Can I have a few minutes?”

·     

 

“Sure Dave.  What’s up?”

·     

 

·      Dave elaborates, “I’m having difficulties getting cooperation from Mary (co-worker).  She does not seem to care that we have a schedule to meet and we depend on her delivery to be ready for the tape out this September.  I have tried getting her to commit to a plan, but she just shrugs her shoulders and says her group is swamped.  My people are becoming increasingly frustrated at Mary’s group and at me.  What do you suggest?”

·     

 

·      “Dave” Mark responds, “I need you to get together with Mary as soon as possible and work this out.  You must know how important the tape out is to the company.  The Board and the executive committee are both putting all our success on Mary and you working together.  Have I made myself clear!”

·      Dave gets up to leave and says on his way out, “I’ll work it out Mark.”

·     

 

Mark says, just as Dave opens the door, “Get back to me if you need more support.  We are counting on you.”

 

This case study stresses two points.

·      First: Mark’s interpersonal relationship model is limited, i.e., specifically his conflict model.  Flat out, Mark does not know how to help Dave solve his communication issue with Mary.   He is following the relationship model he was taught.  His solution is to send Dave right back to Mary for the two of them to figure it out.  After all, they are adults and are being well compensated to figure out problems.

·     

 

·      This is not a technical or scheduling problem, but rather a misaligned relationship issue.  Therefore, if Mark knew what to do, he would arrange to bring both employees into his office and facilitate a meeting immediately.  The meeting would acknowledge Dave & Mary’s common business intention to successfully meet the tape out date.  Second, he would find out what is missing in Dave & Mary’s relationship in order for them to work successfully together.  We will explain this method below.

 

Second: Dave & Mary’s relationship will deteriorate.  Because Mark has not nipped the problem in the bud, Dave will go back, react in the same way with Mary and get nowhere.  Mary and Dave’s hardwired behaviors will be repeated over & over again, continuously sapping time and productivity from their people as the tape out deadline nears.  Mark will increasingly become frustrated privately and publicly with both managers.  The morale of all employees will possibly reach all time lows.

 

 

Listen or Solve: The Language and Skills That Transform Behavior

 

We will now define and explain the differences and similarities between Listen and Solve.  Both processes are valuable and can have positive results. 

 

The Listen Process:

 

·      Allows each employee to be mentored by giving them solutions and thus the opportunity to resolve problems on his or her own. 

·      Keeps the conversation confidential, in play and eliminates spurious banter around the workplace from disrupting productivity.

·      Never allows the same story to be told twice, but begins each meeting with something like, “What have you tried in order to solve the issue since we last met?”

 

The Solve Process:

 

·      Requires all involved parties to meet eye-to-eye and, with boss facilitation, to help in solving their problem. 

·      Allows problems to be resolved in real time.

·      Eliminates hearing multiple versions of the same.

·      Helps the group come to solution in one-quarter of the time. 

·      Allows the group to be mentored and thus provides an opportunity to settle problems as a group while at the same time learning skills. 

·      Tests new language and skills in real time to keep the conversation focused on intentions and behavior as separate units. 

·      Begins each follow up meeting with something like, “Let’s discuss what has transpired since our last meeting by explaining what worked and what did not.”

 

 

As a manager, when someone requests time to talk, Mark is presented with an opportunity to give Dave or Mary a chance to be heard and an opportunity to learn.   To accomplish this Mark asks if they want him to:

 

·      Listen (listen, ask questions & give advise) or

·      2) Do they want him to help them Solve (gather, discuss & resolve) the problem in real-time.   Remember, listening is just as important as solving.  Both are essential in building trust, loyalty and developing employees.

 

 

 

 

Below we will discuss the two processes and the agreements that govern each process.  In order for Mark to recapture time normally used on interpersonal issues, it is important for him to set clear boundaries around each process and to be consistent with all employees.

 

Isolated Listening – One-On-One

 

If an employee wants us to Listen, the conversation will remain confidential and not be discussed outside the office.

 

Agreements:

·     

 

Process Awareness – Before Mark begins, he needs to be either confident his employee already knows the Listen or Solve process, or he will explain the rules at the start.

·     

 

·      Confidentiality – When Mark agree to Listen, he agrees not to talk about the meetings content to any one outside of the conversation:  not to the Mary or group they are having difficulty with, not with his own boss, not with his peers or other employees.  No one!  Mark is not to go out and try to solve the problem, even if it would seemingly take less time.

·     

 

·      It is very important for Mark to keep this confidentiality for two reasons.  First, to allow Dave the opportunity to learn how to resolve his own relationship issues.  Second, it prevents the spread of emotional disinformation in the organization, the undermining of productivity and the creating of unnecessary chasms between people or groups.  Mark, as a boss, needs to keep it to himself.

 

Types of Listening: Isolated Listening vs. Situational Questioning

 

The first question should be, “How would you like me to listen to you!”  We ask this to be successful in the conversation.  There are many variations.  Use them creatively.

 

·      “Would you like me to ask questions as you are talking?”

·      “Would you like me to be silent and respond when your ready?”

·      “Would you like me to tell you my experience and suggestions as we go along?”

·      “Would you like to finish talking, and then end the conversation without a response from me?”

 

Isolated listening is the opposite of situational questioning.

 

TIME SAVER

: Isolated listening is the process of Mark talking to one employee, keeping the conversation confidential, suggesting solutions for Dave to try to resolve the problem and being available for follow up.

 

TIME WASTER

: Situational questioning is the process of listening to one employee, then seeking out others who are implicated, and asking questions about their versions of the same problem.  Then advice is giving to each person separately to have him or her resolve the problem independently.

 

Behavior vs. Intentions

– Mark uses intentional language to balance out the natural tendency for Dave to be defensives when he focuses on Mary’s behavior.  Intentional language speaks to both Mary’s behavior that may be frustrating and to the common intentions she shares with Dave.

 

As a facilitator, be vigilant in keeping the language used by the employee balanced.  Intentions will often become buried under agitated behavior.  We need to listen for and make suggestions when we hear descriptions of behavior that do not include references to intention.  This does not imply balancing every sentence!  Staying conscious of and maintaining the tone of the developing conversation.  Keeping the conversation balanced will keep everyone engaged and feeling valued.

 

Pulling vs. Pushing Questions

– Mark uses pulling questions to keep the conversation in play and inviting.  Pushing questions take the conversation out of play, feel confronting and leave participants with residue.

 

Pulling questions keep the speaker in the conversation by referring to the speaker’s value and intentions. Pulling questions maintain the conversation’s behavior/intention balance, allows for the redirecting of  the conversational flow and gives the speaker a feeling that we want them to continue, but at a deeper level.

 

Pushing questions make the employee defensive and eventually push him or her out of the conversation.  Furthermore, a pushing question give the employee a sense of being wrong and leaves them feeling misunderstood.

 

No Repeating

– Mark reminds Dave not to return and talk about the same problem a second time. If Dave begins to rehash the same details, Mark simply interrupts him, reminds Dave of the rules and ask what he has done to resolve the issue since the last meeting.  In addition, the option to Solve the issue is always available as a next step for Dave.

 

Open to Future Solution

- As long as Dave keeps trying to resolve the problem in new ways, Mark is open to future “Listening” conversations. 

 

Generous Listening

- To deepen a conversation Mark asks questions. Mark does this by listening for key words or phrases and then asks questions for clarification.  These specific questions help deepen the conversation and get to the root of the issue, saving everyone time. (See “Generous Listening” in Part VII Tools & Techniques)

 

Questioning Questions - This is similar to Generous Listening in that it deepens the conversation by helping Mark probe for the real reason the question is asked in the first place.  This is accomplished by Mark not answering the question, but by keeping Dave’s conversation focused on the issue by asking a question about his question. Questioning Questions allow Mark to quickly evaluate what is truly behind employee’s attitudes, words, arguments, politics, ultimatums, personalities and beliefs.  (See “Questioning Questions” in Part VII Tools & Techniques)

 

 

The dangers of answering rather than asking questions are:

·      Mark reacts rather than responds;

·      Mark does not understand the root of the question;

·      Misunderstanding what Dave is really asking increases exponentially;

·      Dave ceases thinking for himself; and

·      Dave receives no training to build creative problem solving skills.

 

Action Items

- Mark gives Dave advice about options that he can take back into the work place to resolve the problem with Mary.  Dave’s accomplishing these options is used as the only focus of further discussions.

 

 

Isolated Listen Example:

 

As a manager, one of Marks responsibilities is to be available to listen to employees needs.  The danger is that without using a practice such as Isolated Listening, Mark could waste inordinate amounts of time hearing about the same problem several times.  Isolated Listening involves new skills in language and process to reduce time spent in meetings.  Mark will do this by:

 

Answering Dave’s question with a question, based on a key word or phrase.  This provides the language skill to deepen the conversation quickly. 

Setting up rules for engagement and confidentiality, are process skills.

 

As an example of answering a question with a question, we will refer once again to the conversation that involved Mark and Dave.  Dave is having trouble getting a peer, Mary, to commit to a tape out date.  All of the examples below assume that Mark has already explained the process of Listen or Solve as choices.

 

Dave says to Mark, “Can I have a few minutes?”

 

“Sure Dave” Mark replies.  “However, before we start, do you want me to simply Listen or do you want my help in solving the problem now?”

 

Dave says thoughtfully, “I think just talking it through will help.”

 

“Remember,” Mark reminds Dave, “You can always escalate our conversation to a process of solving at any time.  We just have to gather the right people.”

 

“I understand.” Then Dave elaborates, “I’m having difficulties getting cooperation from Mary.  He does not seem to care that we have a schedule to meet.  My team depends on his on-time delivery.  My team must be ready for tape out this September.  I have tried getting him to commit to a plan, but he just shrugs his shoulders and says his group is swamped.  My people are becoming increasingly frustrated at Mary, his group and at me.  What do you suggest?”

 

“Dave” Mark responds, “We all know how important the tape out is to the company.   Right off, we will assume that Mary’s, yours and my intentions to be successful are the same.  So, let me ask you a few questions:

·      Did the two of you complete the scenario planning at the beginning of the project to account for various unknowns that might occur as the schedule moves forward?

·      What is the agreement you have with Mary on how you will work together when there is a delay in the schedule?

·      What behavior is Mary acting out that frustrates you? 

·      Can you see that behavior in yourself? 

·      Are you projecting on Mary because your model of relationship has run out? 

·      Are you stuck in being right, but less than productive?

·      If Mary were in this room with us, what would her response be?”

 

As Dave responds to Mark’s questions, he reflects on what the real problem is:  Mary and his relationship is misaligned.  Dave is reminded that he cannot rely on getting cooperation from others by being right, by pointing to a schedule and ranting about what the other person is doing or not doing.  He must rely on his skills to keep the conversation in play by verbally placing value on everyone’s contribution, and at the same time, continuing to ask others what is missing for them to be successful.

 

Mark says, “Dave, I know this feels awkward, but hang in there.  Now would be a good time to come up with a few action items to make the situation more productive.”

 

Dave thinks of three ideas right away.  “I will invite Mary to lunch and re-establish our original intentions at the beginning of the project.  I will also tell Mary what is missing for me and ask the same about her.  Second, we will bring both teams together and express our mutual intentions to help each other.  We will also reevaluate the timeline without projecting or finding fault with either group.  Third, I will ask Mary to help me select two senior people from each group to be a steering committee to drive the process to completion.  This should be a good start.

 

Mark says, “ This is a good start.  It is my hope that you will reflect on what Mary has to say and then ask questions that deepen her understanding of what is missing at this point in the project.  Hold back your opinions until you really understand where she is coming from.  Your goal in asking questions is to allow Mary to come up with a solution that solves the scheduling issue.”

 

Dave gets up to leave and says on his way out, “I’ll work it out Mark.  You’ve reminded me of how to successfully approach Mary to get her cooperation.  We will get back to you with our progress.”

 

Mark says, just as Dave opens the door, “I look forward to it.”

 

In this conversation, Mark helps Dave by supporting action items that can be carried out with Mary.  Mark can now monitor Dave’s progress to see if further intervention will be necessary.  This is not a passive process, but one that provides options to Dave that he may not have thought of before.  Dave is being offered an opportunity to learn to solve interpersonal issues on his own.

 

Given the rules for Listening, Mark will not discuss Dave’s conversation with anyone else.  However, he will follow-up with Dave on a regular basis to assure that momentum is sustained and the schedule is kept on track.


Copyright © 2016 Scott Taylor Consulting  All Rights Reserved.

© Scott Taylor 2016