Guided Team Meeting: Are you a good listener?

March 1, 2000
This exercise will require some thoughtful time in preparation. Before the team meeting, each member of the team is asked to rate him or herself on a scale of one (low, poor, or never) to 10 (high, excellent, or always) in response to each of the nine questions below. Many team members choose to ask family members or friends to rate them as well. Children enjoy this type of focused time with their parents and their observations usually are frank and accurate. Here are the questions:

Sandy Roth and

Terry Goss

This exercise will require some thoughtful time in preparation. Before the team meeting, each member of the team is asked to rate him or herself on a scale of one (low, poor, or never) to 10 (high, excellent, or always) in response to each of the nine questions below. Many team members choose to ask family members or friends to rate them as well. Children enjoy this type of focused time with their parents and their observations usually are frank and accurate. Here are the questions:

1. Do I enjoy listening to others or is it a chore?

2. Do I encourage others to speak by smiling, nodding my head, and looking interested?

3. Do I listen equally well if the person is a man or a woman, young or old, a friend or a stranger?

4. Do I set aside what I have been doing so I can concentrate and remain focused?

5. Can I block out distractions?

6. Do I concentrate on what the person is saying, trying to understand what he means and why he is saying it?

7. Do I interrupt, finish sentences, or jump in at the least hesitation?

8. Do I tend to begin formulating my response or reach a judgment before the person has finished?

9. Do I restate what I have heard to make sure it is accurate?

At the team meeting, one team member volunteers to begin. She (or he) describes her listening strengths and limitations to the group, based on what she learned through the preparatory exercise. We encourage team members to give examples to illustrate their listening styles. For example: "When I am not sure what a person means, I sometimes pretend I do if I feel intimidated by her," "I find it difficult to listen intently when there are two phones ringing and another conversation at the front desk," or "I will often finish a sentence if I think someone is struggling to express himself."

After each team member (including the dentist) has had a turn, talk about your similarities and your differences. Identify the skills you have mastered and where you are ineffective. What patterns appear in the group? Where is one team member strong and another feeling awkward? How can one member benefit from coaching from another? What skills would benefit everyone on the team and how will you go about developing them?

Once you have completed this part of the exercise, develop a four- to six-week plan for focusing on your listening. Choose one aspect of your learning for each week and decide how you will work on that issue. For example, designate one week for moving to private space for important conversations which require focus and limited distractions. The second week might be focused on listening no matter how long it takes the speaker to finish a sentence or thought. The third week could be the time to take on the challenge of asking intimidating people to restate what they have said, and so on. On the last day of each week, gather for a team lunch and review what you learned and accomplished. Celebrate your successes and rededicate yourselves to that which remains challenging.

Best wishes in mastering the art of listening, and let us know how we can help you with this project.

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