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Collaboration Series (Pt 3 – Listening Well)

Collaboration is impossible unless the parties involved choose to listen to one another.

Simple, right? Not really. I’m convinced that most don’t do this well.

Listening well is both an art form to develop and a skill to refine. Our mind has the ability to take in or block out information flow based on our sense of its priority. Yes, it’s about priorities and values. Unfortunately, the chaos of our environment often drowns out important connection opportunities with people we really do need to hear from.

Although I am the last one to claim expertise on this [just ask my wife

], I have the following short list of things I try to keep in mind while connecting with people:

  • Pay Attention to Names – I know it’s easy to write off our inability to “memorize names”, but nevertheless, you’re going to have to remember many of them. What I do to better remember names is to use it during the initial conversation. There’s something about saying a person’s name and leaves a better imprint in our minds.
  • Stay Present – Don’t be that guy that eyes the room for other “bigger fish” to connect with during the conversation. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t engage people if you’re not going to be present both physically and mentally. Our inability to communicate through body language of our interest in the person in front of us will often discount us from any future opportunities for engagement.
  • Listen to the Why and Not Just the What – Many people don’t usually say all of what they really mean to say. On the other hand, some of the things said in frustration are rarely as bad or mean as they sound. You have to intentionally listen to what the heart of the communication is and not just the content of it.
  • Ask Clarifying Questions – I think one of the best ways to engage others is through great questions that clarify what the person is trying to communicate. This is especially important in conversations about collaboration. Using questions like “Would you mind clarifying what you mean by that?” or “Would you give me an example of what you’re referring to” will help crystallize the intent, expectations, and message between the parties.
  • Take Good Notes – When appropriate, take notes when engaging others. This will keep you engaged and focused on the conversation. The additional use of senses will help you better intake what’s really being said. In meetings, don’t just rely on the note-taker to do all the work. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to do anything with their notes. In other words, don’t relieve yourself of the responsibility. It won’t be of much benefit to you.
  • Don’t Talk Too Much – I know it sounds self-evident, but don’t take over the conversation if you’re goal is to listen better. As far as I can tell, talking prevents you from listening well. Just saying.

Listening well is an important part of collaboration and takes intentional effort to develop. If done well, it will open up a world of opportunities for you!

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Charles is the CEO & Chief Idea-Maker at Ideation, a brand innovation company that specializes in helping businesses & organizations build remarkable brands via innovative business design, organizational change architecture, brand integration, design, web, and marketing services. He is also the author of Good Idea. Now What?: How to Move Ideas to Execution, a practical book designed to help people move ideas to implementation. Charles is regularly invited to speak to leading companies and organizations on topics such as creativity, innovation, idea-making, and branding. Executive leaders from brands including Wells Fargo, Toyota, The White House, Catalyst, William Morris Endeavor, mun2, Council of Urban Professionals, Chick-fil-A, and many others have benefited from having Charles present at their key events.