Listening Expert Oscar Trimboli Shares How You Can Improve Your Listening – Episode 151

LFL S4 151 | Improve Your Listening

 

During your meetings, are you struggling to pay attention to the speaker? Or as a speaker, do you feel like people not listening to you? This happens because no one is listening to each other. All people do is communicate what they want to communicate. They are more focused on the content rather than the communication process. If everyone starts listening to each other, your meetings are going to go by a lot faster.

Join Patrick Veroneau as he talks to author, Deep Listening podcast host, and sought-after keynote speaker, Oscar Trimboli. Oscar gives some neat tricks on how you can improve your listening. He also shares how you, as a leader, can engage with your audience before, during, and after a meeting. Take a pause and start listening today!

Listen to the podcast here

 

Listening Expert Oscar Trimboli Shares How You Can Improve Your Listening

Thank you for joining me on another episode. On this episode, it’s all about listening. My guest is Oscar Trimboli, who is a world expert in regard to listening. Our conversation first started out in regards to a game that he sent to me called Deep Listening Impact Beyond Words but it went so much further than that in terms of going deep into how we listen and the impact of listening and how to improve our listening. Let’s get into it.

Oscar, I want to thank you for being on the show. I have so much appreciated going through the material you sent to me and I was joking before we started this. You sent me this box. When it arrived, I felt like I was opening something from Apple. It was so elegant the way that you put this together. We’ll talk about it.

One of the things that stood out to me when I first opened this was a line in there where you said, “We’re taught how to speak but not how to listen.” That resonated, especially in the environment that we’re in now. It’s not that listening hasn’t been important before but it’s even more important now. I’m looking forward to understanding how you came about, the model you have put together, the game that you created, and where you think it’s most needed in this environment.

We're taught how to speak, but we are not taught how to listen. Click To Tweet

You’d need to zoom into a budget-setting meeting in April 2008. I’m sitting in a boardroom between Sydney, Seattle, and Singapore, where there are eighteen people on this video conference setting a budget. The meeting’s designed to go for 90 minutes. At the twenty-minute mark, after a lot of debate, my vice president looks me straight in the eye and said, “Oscar, I need to see you immediately after this meeting.” I don’t know about you, Patrick but when your boss says that to you, I’m counting how many weeks of salary I’ve got left in my bank account.

I’m figuring out what are my big expenses coming up. Tracy had never said it with that much directness to me before. Tragically, for me, the meeting finished early. It finished at the 70-minute mark. It was a productive, positive meeting. She asked me to close the door. I thought, “Great. She’s going to fire me in private.” As I walked back towards the chair sitting next to Tracy, she said, “You have no idea what you did at the twenty-minute mark.”

I thought, “Great. I’m getting fired and I didn’t know what I did.” I sat down and she said, “If you could code the way you listen, you could change the world.” It was a profound thing for her to say. It was an insightful moment of listening on her behalf. Patrick, the only thing going through my head was, “I hadn’t been fired. I can put all that money back in my bank account.” The next thing that went through my head was that the division of the business I was running had gotten a 32% uplift in our revenue line year on year. All I was trying to process was how to make sense of that.

I wasn’t listening to a single thing Tracy was saying to me about listening and changing the world. The only thing I could get out of my mouth was, “Tracy, Do you mean code or code-code?” She said, “We’re a Microsoft, Oscar, code.” Which meant putting it into computer software. Make an application out of it. Make it reusable and give it scale. As I look forward to the people who’ve interacted with our programs, our books, our applying cards, our jigsaw puzzle games, and the deep listening quiz where people can figure out what’s their primary listening barrier.

We’ve built a community and they’ve named themselves the Deeper Listening Ambassadors. The Deeper Listening Ambassadors go out and try and explain to people in foreign lands the importance of listening and they created this quest. The quest is to create 100 million deeper listeners in the workplace of the world. That’s the start of this story.

Back to your point that you said, we’re taught how to speak but we are not taught how to listen. In fact, we are taught how to listen, just not formally. We’re taught through role modeling an example from our parents, our teachers, our aunties, our uncles, our grandparents, and anybody we interact with. These are all role modeling listening back to us. The ironic thing is that the first skill you learn at 32 weeks inside your mother’s womb before you’re born is that you can distinguish the sound of your mother’s voice from any other voice in the outside world.

By 36 weeks, you can distinguish music. You can distinguish Beethoven, from the Beatles, from Bon Jovi, from Justin Bieber. Listening is something we’re taught much earlier than we think, yet we have a series of examples around us. We aren’t taught how to listen formally. In fact, we know from research that only 2% of people in workplaces are ever taught how to listen.

By the first decade of somebody’s workplace career, at least 1/3 of people are taught how to speak, how to communicate effectively, and how to communicate with influence. By the second decade of their career, 74% of people are taught some approach to speak. That’s the most wonderful set of ingredients I’ve come across. Back in 2008, my boss said to me, “Code how you listen because you could change the world.”

Even the title of this, Deep Listening Impact Beyond Words, to me, there’s so much there to unpack. As you were putting that together, what’s the significance of that for you?

If people know these three numbers about listening, they understand what impact beyond words means. First number 125, next number 400, next number 900. 125 is my speaking speed. 900 is my thinking speed. I can think at 900 words per minute, yet I can communicate 125 words per minute. Straight away, once people understand that the first thing somebody says is not only 14% of what they think and possibly what they mean. If you become conscious, good listeners listen to what’s said and great listeners notice what’s not said.

They notice the unsaid. They notice a bit beyond the words. That’s the subtitle in the book. When you listen and notice what the other person in a group meeting who’s not speaking up and what themes we haven’t explored, your impact becomes amplified. We know that when people start to listen for what’s unsaid, meetings become shorter. Back to that original budget meeting, we cut the meeting twenty minutes short for something I said at the twenty-minute mark, apparently.

That’s why the impact beyond words because when you realize your role as the listener is not only to make sense of what they’re saying but it’s to help the speaker make sense of what they’re thinking. A speaker rarely has the opportunity to say the next 125 words. There’s a lot of poor dialogue that happens because we’re all communicating around 14% of what we’re thinking. Now, I don’t know about you, I don’t gamble a lot but people tell me if I go to Las Vegas, that’s probably about the same odds I would get at a roulette wheel, a blackjack table, or at a slot machine. That’s a loaded game, so ask another question.

LFL S4 151 | Improve Your Listening

Improve Your Listening: Your role as a listener is to not only make sense of what the speaker is saying but to help the speaker make sense of what they’re thinking.

 

One of the things we get people to do after our workshops is simply going into the next team meeting and noticing how many people ask a clarifying question before they answer the question that’s posed. Oftentimes, people go, “There’s nobody except the exceptional communicators who will clarify the question before they answer it.” The problem is that when I’m asking a question, I’m usually saying the first 125 words. A little linguistic hack for you, Patrick, eight words or less is a powerful and neutral question. If your question is longer than eight words, it’s probably either a statement or has implied bias in it.

I love that. That is something I have never heard before. If I don’t write that down, I will forget it even though we’re recorded.

If you want to hear what’s unsaid because a lot of people say to me, “Oscar, I’m struggling to hear what’s said. What’s this unsaid stuff?” these three very simple phrases will liberate you but more importantly, liberate the speaker, and start to get them communicating what they mean as they think through what they’re about to say.

If you use some of these phrases or variants of them and they’ll be very short, so you can write them down shortly, it won’t be a problem. If you use these phrases, you will see a visible change in the posture of the person you are speaking with or the group you’re interacting with. You’ll notice they’ll sigh. They’ll take a deep breath in or their shoulder position will change. They’ll typically go from whatever their current shoulder position to a more erect shoulder position.

Their head will tilt slightly differently on their head. If it’s to one side prior, it might come to an alignment or it might go to the other side. They’ll use these magic code words. Listen out to these ones because if you hear these code words, you’re getting closer to what they mean rather than their level-one thinking. They’ll say things like, “What I meant to say was what’s important to me. I’d like to focus on.”

They’ll change their body position and they’ll use these phrases. What they’re about to tell you is what they mean, not what they said the first time. That’s only possible if you ask these three simple questions. The first one, “Tell me more.” You’ll notice it’s only three words long. You could use a variant of that, which is, “Say more about that.” You could simply say, “Say more.”

The next one is, “And what else?” or you could say, “And?” Now please make them your own because I’m giving you five other words to play with on the outside of all of these. You could say, “I’m curious. Tell me more.” The last one is the simplest, the easiest, the most powerful, and the most potent. Done well, it’s liberating, and done poorly, it’s intimidating.

When you use this phrase across all cultures, across all centuries, across all countries, across all workplaces, this is the most potent, and here it is. Don’t worry. Nothing went wrong. It’s no coincidence. That’s silence and listen. Share identical letters. Pausing will create a magnet for the speaker to connect with their meaning. I’m curious about what’s going through your mind now.

Pausing will create a magnet for the speaker to connect with their meaning. Click To Tweet

The last one that you mentioned there, was the silence. What is that? Is it a level of we’re not comfortable with silence, so we feel like we have to say something?

We are not comfortable with silence. The pregnant pause, the awkward silence, the confronting silence. In the West, we have all these phrases for it. When you study ancient cultures, high context cultures, Korea, Japan, and China, when you study the inure culture of North America, the Eskimo, when you study the indigenous communities of Australia in the upper region, when you study the Maori culture of New Zealand, the Amazonian jungle cultures, the Polynesian cultures of the Pacific, silence is a sign of wisdom, respect, of authority and it’s also a signal to the group to gather.

When groups come together in these high-context cultures, the groups always come to presence in silence. As silence is led by the leader. This is a very western construct, the awkward silence. I need to fill the pause and it’s only consciousness once people know that silence is liberating, both for the speaker and the listener. A lot of people say to me, “Oscar, this listening stuff is hard. It’s draining. It takes too much effort.” I say, “Could I invite you to have another perspective on that?” When I listen, it’s light, energizing, and simple.

I often say to them, “Are you listening only to make sense for you or you’re listening to make sense for the speaker?” In that moment, they realize that silence will help the meeting shorten. More importantly, speak about what matters. When you’re okay with the silence and when people start to talk about what’s important to them, what’s at risk for them, and what’s consequential, there are fewer misunderstandings. You don’t come back to the weekly work-in-progress meeting or weekly update meeting on a project where people say, “I’ve delivered that output.” The other person said, “That’s not what I wanted you to do. I wanted you to do this.” “If only I’d listened.”

The reason they don’t listen is because we haven’t become comfortable with the tools of asking a clarifying question and knowing silence is completely okay. Too many people in Western workplaces think they’re paid for the speed of their answer and yet, when I work with executives, they would rather have a high-quality slow answer than a rapid top of head answer. The consequences, as we mentioned earlier, it’s beyond words.

When you listen to what’s not present in the dialogue, resourcing doesn’t become something that’s constrained. Projects probably finish a lot earlier than anticipated. The way the team works together, I won’t say is more harmonious but conflict is shared earlier rather than when it’s too late to do anything about it in a team or group setting.

It’s interesting when I hear you speak about that. I remember having a manager years ago that I would be in meetings and I wouldn’t say much. I would be one that would sit back and I wanted to soak it all in. I wasn’t going to say anything without trying to understand more about what’s going on. This manager did not like that. It was almost as though I didn’t care about the meeting, which wasn’t it at all. I needed more time to soak in what was going on, that western culture of you need to speak, you need to say something. I would certainly think that’s true.

Now, in one of the things that I will often talk about in listening and I’d like your thoughts on this. I talk about it in terms of listening with the mind. That’s the point where I slow down but I’m asking maybe myself questions. If you say something to me before I react to you, I’m maybe questioning myself, “Is that what Oscar means?” Maybe I need to say, “Oscar, I heard you say this. Is this what you mean?” I give you an opportunity to say, “Yes, that’s what I mean, Patrick, or no, that’s not,” as a way to slow things down.

For a lot of people, they don’t do the very first thing in any dialogue, whether that’s a group or one on one conversation. The very first thing you should say in any conversation is a version of this. What we don’t do enough of is communicate about how we want to communicate and all we do is communicate about what we want to communicate on. We’re focused on the content and not the process.

LFL S4 151 | Improve Your Listening

Improve Your Listening: People don’t communicate about how they want to communicate. All they do is communicate what they want to communicate. People are more focused on the content rather than the process.

 

This was taught to me by somebody from the neurodiverse community, not the neurotypical community, which probably most of your readers are. Jennifer is a mom whose son came home from school. His name is Christopher. He said, “Mommy, I’m so excited. I learned that 3 is half of 8.” Jennifer was a primary school teacher and she’s doing her chores and all kinds of things and said, “Christopher, honey, could you say that again?” He said, “Mommy, I learned that 3 is half of 8.”

She shook her head and she was frustrated like, “What are they teaching kids at school these days?” She went to the cupboard, grab eight M&Ms out of the cupboard and laid them out like soldiers on the kitchen table and pick Christopher up. She had the M&MS in rows of two. She said, “Christopher, honey, count how many M&Ms are on this line of M&M soldiers.” He said, “1234, mommy.” “How many on that side, Christopher?” “They’re all facing each other mom, four.” She said, “See, honey? 4 not 3 is half of 8.”

With that, Christopher left off the table like Superman and went and got a piece of paper from the corner cupboard and a sharpie. He drew the figure eight on this piece of paper. He showed it to his mom and he folded it vertically. Showed it to his mom as he tore it in half and said, “Mom, 3 is half of 6.” Most of us in workplaces are fixated on the content that 3 is half of 8 or 4 is half of 8 and we are not listening to what that person means.

By the way, if you fold the eight horizontally, 0 is half of 8 as well. All of us are obsessed with content in the workplace. “You are wrong. Four is the right answer. No, I’m thinking three. No, I’m thinking zero.” What Christopher taught his mom and he’s three years older and he is going to school. He is pretty advanced and he finished college much sooner. He finished college at the age of sixteen. He’s a world-champion bug catcher. I’m not talking about the insect variety. I’m talking computer software variety as well.

The most complex computer problems in the world, he’s solving. My point is that when I ask Christopher how he communicates with people, one of the first things he says at the beginning of every conversation is how effective communication for me is and he outlines it. This showed up to me once when I was working with an executive in a board situation and the board had brought me in because they said, “This board member is excellent but they’re not listening.”

They were simply putting their head down and looking at their shoes while the conversation was going on. That was a concentration method for them because they found that listening to how people were speaking, the actual dialogue was visually distracting and they couldn’t focus. I want to give everybody a question they can ask at the beginning of a conversation that will completely transform the situation. I want you to zoom back into your situation with your manager, which is where we started here. I want you to think if you had to ask this question. Would the dialogue have been different?

The question is a very simple question, “What would make this a great conversation for you?” You could ask, “What would make this a great conversation?” You could ask, “How would you like to discuss this?” Any one of those three questions will move everybody in the room if it’s a group or an individual to a different place. The place is creating a compass for our conversation. This is how you shorten the meetings, by the way, Patrick. I’ll come to shorten the meetings using this tip after you reflect on that moment with your manager who wanted the rapid-fire answer. If you would’ve said to them any variant of those three questions, what do you think they would’ve said back to you?

I would’ve liked to have thought he would be more open to giving me that space to be able to formulate my question.

We know that in 30% of cases when you ask that question, the other person will ask you the same question in reverse. What will make this a great conversation for you? Let’s pretend I’m your manager and I said to you, Patrick, “What will make it a great conversation for you?” We can’t talk about the content. What would make it a great conversation for you? You would’ve said?

For me, it would be the opportunity to not have to feel as though I’ve got to quickly respond to this but some opportunity to process what’s going on. That would make it good for me.

We’re talking about how we’re communicating, not what we’re communicating. We use this as a little compass setting. In a one-hour meeting, every fifteen minutes, you go, “We’re fifteen minutes in. Let’s do a quick checkpoint. Patrick, at the beginning of the conversation, you said you’d like some time to process your response. How are we going with that?” It gives both parties the opportunity to adjust and this is the hack that shortens meetings.

LFL S4 151 | Improve Your Listening

Improve Your Listening: In a one-hour meeting, every 15 minutes, just say “okay, we’re 15 minutes in, let’s do a quick checkpoint.” This is the hack that shortens meetings because it gives both parties time to adjust.

 

When people ask this every 15 minutes in a 1-hour meeting, your meetings will typically go between 40 and 45 minutes and some meetings finish at the 15-minute mark because people say, “I’ve got what I need. We don’t have to keep going.” In a half-hour meeting, you should be asking this question about every ten minutes.

If you can, try and avoid setting meetings up at the top of the hour or the bottom of the half hour. Offset them for 5 minutes or 10 minutes. Give people a chance to visit a restroom and collect their thoughts. Patrick’s smiling because he’s very confused about why did Oscar set this five-minutes past the hour. It’s a listening hack. Patrick, when you received a meeting request for five off the hour from me, for us to have this conversation, what went through your mind?

I thought, “I didn’t even know I could set five minutes after the hour for an appointment.” I don’t know how he did that then what’s even more interesting or comical about this is that when I sent you the link for the Zoom, I put it back to 4:00, not to 4:05.

What’s even more fascinating for me is when I have a meeting for the first time with somebody, I always arrive at the top of the hour because they are so programmed and coded to turn up at the top of the hour. All of a sudden, they go, “I didn’t know you could set the meeting at five off the hour. I didn’t know you could do that.” You can set your default up so you don’t have to think about that. Patrick, I’ll be happy to send you a screenshot. We’ve built this guide for people. It’s called the Ultimate Guide to Listening on a Video conference. These are the very specific listening hacks we give people.

By the way, if you set the meeting up at 5 minutes off the hour and 5 minutes off the top of the hour, you make a 1-hour meeting, 50 minutes and this is how people get 4 hours a week back in their schedule because people use that checkpoint. In a team meeting, you can do the identical thing and ask people what will make it a great meeting as we all come into the meeting. You can check in as the leader every fifteen minutes on that as well.

The group momentum builds up as they learn that you’re going to ask that more regularly because you then, as the leader, are removing yourself from the content and you’re leading the process of communication, which is ultimately what you do. As you code the team to learn this process, you virtually make yourself redundant and leading becomes lighter and easier for you as well. Now for those who can’t see, Patrick’s got a smile the size of a boomerang across his face now.

I thought I was a pretty good listener. In the cards, you have an exercise in there for yourself of doing this twice a day for five weeks on the different cards of the different levels. For those of you, I hope you will have an opportunity so you can find out how to get those. Oscar, I am starting this. I am going to start this. I sent you a quick questionnaire to ask, “What are some things that you want to talk about?” You said, “It’d be nice to focus on groups and not one on one.” As my head is spinning now, thinking of all of this stuff, I’m thinking of remote work and meetings done remotely and how valuable what you’re talking about now is to create a space where people feel productive.

When you think about the clients you work with now and the struggles they have with video specifically, do you sense it’s more about the context of connection, or is it something else that you feel those reading are struggling with now when it comes to video conference?

Honestly, I’m not in a lot of those group meetings that they have but I would say that what I hear and when I’m in them, some of it is connection but there’s probably a monotony to it for them. It’s like a redundancy. It’s like Groundhog Day going into a meeting again. A couple of things that have come out from some of the clients that I’ve had, especially in healthcare where they’ve talked about Zoom meetings as Zoomitist. “Please not another Zoom meeting.” They label participants on them as Zoombies. I do think part of this is I feel like we’re not present. We’re going through the motions.

This is why we wrote the guide. We got a lot of feedback from the deep-listening ambassadors that we mentioned earlier. It’s like, “Oscar, create something for this video conference context.” We’ve done a Zoom version of this guide specifically to give you some little tips. It’s not a technical guide in terms of software. Although, I was selling video conference software in 1996. That’s a story for another day. The technology itself hasn’t evolved. The availability of the technology has evolved. Here are a couple of quick tips if you are the host.

To move those meetings from Zoombies to something that’s powerful, exponential, and beyond words, the first thing to know is that listening happens before, during, and after the meeting. Most people think listening is only when you log into Zoom. That is only a small proportion of that. I’m going to give you a tip on how to listen before and how to listen after. Before I do that, back in 1996, I interviewed people from Stanford, Missouri University, and Utrecht University in the Netherlands. These numbers haven’t changed.

In a meeting, listening happens before, during, and after the meeting. Click To Tweet

A human can hold their attention in one context or modality for a maximum of eight minutes. You plug someone into staring at a screen for one hour nonstop, which is the currency of most workplaces. By the way, why one hour? Who made up that rule? Those people who run Google Mail and Microsoft Outlook have a lot to answer for because they have created a default, which everybody salutes. In fact, I didn’t even know I could change that. Now, dirty little secret. I used to be one of those little soldiers of Microsoft selling those systems, so I apologize.

You can only hold your attention for eight minutes continuously. By the way, if you want to know how that applies in TV, it’s commercial breaks. If you want to know how that applies to a Netflix series, it will be scene changes roundabout the eight minimum. This is applied in multiple domains. If you are the host, change the context of the meeting every 8 to 12 minutes. What does that mean? Ask people to turn off their video cameras. Put them in a listen-only mode. Ask them to write something in the chat, have a poll, play a video, or ask them to go to a breakout room. Stop the meeting, ask them to have a glass of water, stand up, and move around their desk.

LFL S4 151 | Improve Your Listening

Improve Your Listening: If you are the host of a meeting, change the context of the meeting every 8 to 12 minutes. Ask people to turn off their cameras, write something in the chat, have a poll, or play a video.

 

Most people don’t realize the impact of physical movement. Now, Patrick can see this. I stand up for any video conference I do. I do that for a couple of reasons. One, my diaphragm is fully expanded so I can project effectively, communicate, and enunciate. When you’re sitting down, your diaphragm is basically crushed. It’s difficult and takes effort to breathe. We don’t all have the opportunity to have this set up but as a host, you can give the participants the opportunity to move around every 8 to 15 minutes.

When I do this on the videos as a host, you can see the change in state and engagement when people come back in. As a host, you should be drinking water every half an hour. You are doing that for you and for them. You should be drinking a glass of water before you come into the video conference as well. With those simple things, modality changes. You’re going to get a different level of engagement. The other reason why you got a bunch of Zoombies is that you’ve never asked anybody at the beginning of the call, “What would make this a great conversation?”

If you’ve got too many people where you can’t ask that, you can simply get them to put in the chat. In the chat, pop in there, “What color do you feel like? What drink do you feel like? Explain it in one sentence.” I’ve had people put in the chat that they feel like soda pop. I’ve had them put in there that they feel like champagne and some feel like vodka. It doesn’t matter what they put in the chat. You are connecting them to the group in a completely different way where people can see visibly the state of that person.

A lot of people say to me, “Patrick, I don’t get to read body language. I don’t like video conferencing.” I say, “You’re doing it all differently. Here’s a couple of other ways you can do it.” Rather than the standard, “What town are you checking in from, and what’s the weather there now?” that’s a low-yield question. It’s an okay question if the groups never met but the context you’re talking about is where there are these repetitive meetings.

Find a way to connect with the energy at the end of the call before it finishes, not at the five minutes to the top of the hour mark but at about the 40-minute mark, and ask the same question. “What color are you feeling like? What movie star are you feeling like? What drink do you feel like?” Notice the change because if the group is talking more about champagne and soda pop than it’s talking about vodka and coffee.

Maybe it’s been a good meeting, I don’t know but these are questions to understand people’s emotional state because as the host, your job is not to get people to listen to the active speaker. Your job is to get the group to listen to itself. When the group listens to itself, it solves its own problems faster. Again, you as the leader become redundant. Now the guide is 105 pages. I could talk all day about this topic but I want to talk about the before and after the meeting. Before I do, what’s on your mind?

I want to know how to get the guide.

That’s easy. Go to OscarTrimboli.com/VideoConference and you’ll get the guide there.

The other thing, Oscar, I will say that as you were saying that I was trying to think of my own questions to maybe ask to get people. Is it, “Tell me the type of car you feel like you are now coming into this meeting?” There are different fun things that you could do. I love that every eight minutes. Again, think about some of these things. I’m big into research.

What’s the why? The research says that this isn’t something that I thought up but there’s evidence that suggests that this is why this works. That’s what I love about this because I’m thinking of that as I do my webinars or things. Am I doing that? I do polls but am I making sure that I’m breaking them out that way? I certainly will be more conscious of making sure that I’m doing that.

I have a simple example. A lot of people get frustrated with breakout rooms. Again, people don’t understand how to set up a breakout room to be effective. When you do, people come back in an energized space and they do liberate their thinking. Ask questions before the video conference. This can be structured. Zoom as you can get people to register. Most people don’t know. You can ask people when they register for a Zoom meeting. Not just a Zoom webinar but a Zoom meeting. You can ask questions there.

I will ask these three questions in the Zoom meetings I run. “What’s the biggest thing you struggle with when it comes to listening? What frustrates you when other people don’t listen to you? What’s one thing you want to improve in your listening at the end of this conference?” I make a slide of that and show it to the team, the group right at the beginning. I say, “This is what everybody said.” Do you know what every participant’s doing? They’re looking for where theirs is on the slide. I’ve got them.

The meeting is starting off from a very engaged position because this dude has been listening to me even before we turn up to the conversation. Now in a big group setting, I get people to go and visit ListeningQuiz.com. Take the seven-minute quiz and find out what their primary listening barrier is. We show a pie chart and say, “This group is a problem-solving group or this group is an interrupting group. They value time more than they value the relationship. This group is all about the connection.”

I adjust my content accordingly because I’ve asked the three questions in advance or I’ve got the big quiz where I’m dealing with hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. Straight away, the group’s going, “I’m on that pie chart. He gets me,” and because they think I get them, I have them for at least eight minutes. That’s the maximum amount of time I’ve got for now. After, this is the big bid everybody misses.

After the meeting, it’s crucial in a workplace context that either you as the host or the meeting host were delegating on behalf of not just communicating the actions that were taken in the meeting but continuing to communicate the progress on the actions regularly. If the meeting is weekly, you should communicate at least three times between the end of the meeting and the commencement and the next meeting, the progress on those actions because that creates momentum. It gives people an opportunity to support people who may be slow in getting their results whereas other people have got the outcome quicker.

The difference between hearing and listening is action. If you don’t take action after the meeting, as a leader, the group will never believe you’ve listened to them. Please put as much effort into your preparation as you do into post-meeting. In too many meetings, everybody puts effort in 80% to 90% of the actual meeting. A third of your effort should be pre-meeting. A third of your effort should be during and a third after.

If you don't take action after the meeting as a leader, your group will never believe you've listened to them. Click To Tweet

When you do that, it’s sustainable because leadership is shared during the actual group meeting itself. A lot of reasons why people think they’ve got to put all this effort into listening during the meeting is because they’re the only ones doing the listening as the host. We need to delegate listening. Good Zoom hosts make sure people are listening to the active speaker. A great Zoom host makes sure everybody’s listening to each other and noticing who hasn’t spoken. We haven’t even touched on the five levels of listening, 20,000 people in the research group. We can come to that on another day. What’s going through your mind now, Patrick?

This is like multiple episodes but there’s so much here. Again, I thought I was pretty good at listening and understanding and it’s like peeling an onion back. There’s layer and layer here but all-important stuff. One thing that I was thinking about when you’re talking about the 30% at the end of the meeting, it’s almost like when surveys are done in a company and no feedback has ever been given as to what the result of the survey is.

People become cynical. “I’m not wasting my time doing another survey because nobody cares anyway or I invested a lot of time in the last one and nothing ever happened because of it.” As I’m hearing you, this is like those people that are in the meeting that are like, “We spent all this time yet there’s no feedback or bringing it back to where we are on that.” People become cynical about that too. It’s like, “Why bother? Let’s get through this.”

I get approached and engaged by a lot of software companies that do those surveys that you speak about. Before I take the engagement, my opening line will be, “Stop surveying your staff until you’ve implemented what they told you in the last survey.” I’m not talking about the headline. I’m talking about everything they say.

While you are busy doing balloons and cakes to try and get people to fill in the survey and share when you get 50%, or 60% uptake, the reason they’re not filling in the survey is that you didn’t listen the last time. You’ll have a bigger impact on survey uptake if you communicate what you implement. In the room, I ask people to all stand-up and then sit down if they haven’t communicated what they’ve implemented. Usually, in a room of say 500 people, there are 10 that are still standing when I ask them.

It’s a very small group but that group is highly correlated to the highest-performing workplace cultures as well. As leaders, listening happens before, during, and after the conversation, before, during, and after the team meeting, and before, during, and after, any systemic survey. It’s identical for your customers as well. A lot of people go, “How do I communicate back to my customer with a customer satisfaction survey?”

I was working with a client. They have a massive contact center. When you’re on hold, they play certain messages. We got them to think about communicating what they’ve implemented based on that, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you recommend us? Please leave a message with any other feedback.” What they said is, “Based on your feedback in the last surveys, we listen and ask you for your postcode or your ZIP code when you come in. We try and match you with somebody in that area who has local knowledge so they can help you with so we can help you with your claim faster.”

It was an insurance company. They tripled the number of people who left feedback because they did a simple test. They split the calls. People got the standard message. People got the new message. The other thing they say is, “We’re using your telephone number which you’ve allowed us to match to our database so we can pull up your records immediately. Our call center agent will look at your history before they pick up the phone and speak to you while you’re waiting on hold.”

Again, that’s simple. Communicating back to people increased the net promoter score response. A lot of people don’t realize they have all these ways to communicate back to suppliers and customers. Politicians can do that to the citizens and the voters. If you can do that and explain what you’re doing, the connection will be great.

Along those lines is that you need to follow through on it. If I take somebody’s number, when I do call there and if I have to go through everything again and they act like they didn’t look at any of my stuff. I’m like, “You promised me you were going to do this.” In organizations, it’s the same thing. There’s a misalignment. There’s no congruence. What you said and what you do is not the same thing but when they’re aligned, it’s so powerful which is what you’re talking about here. It’s like connecting the dots or closing the loop.

Oscar, I had two and a half pages of notes of things that I was like, “I’d like to touch on these,” but I haven’t had an opportunity to hit on one of them yet because this conversation has exceeded my expectations. I thought there was a lot here and you’ve even blown that out of the water. I want to thank you so much for this. I love to do at least a round two on this because we’ve gone way over eight minutes, no doubt.

I’ll be delighted to come back. You can ask your audience either through your newsletter or your socials, what questions they might like to ask me next time or what concept landed this time. Rather than getting in contact with me, I strongly recommend you visit ListeningQuiz.com. Take the seven-minute survey, find out what your primary listening villain is, and what’s that barrier that gets in your way.

We’ve got a simple one-page prescription about what to do about it based on your listening profile. That will be the start of your journey. We’ve got lots of other assets that we touched on as well, so that would be the strong thing I’d recommend. The difference between hearing and listening is action. If you want to take action, take the Listening Quiz.

We said this in the beginning or at least I mentioned this to you. Not that listening hasn’t been important prior to now but I do believe that something has happened since the pandemic in terms of accelerating. As I’ve seen it on my end, listening has devolved for a lot of people into not about listening to understand somebody else but more about listening to undermine or not being present with people.

All the things that you’re talking about help us to get back to that being able to be productive and especially in a group setting, how do we do that? I want to thank you so much for this. I’m going to make a promise to you on this as well. I’m putting a stake in the ground now. I’m going to do that challenge for the next five weeks. I’d love to have a follow-up from that where I’ve done what you’ve prescribed in that yourself portion of this.

I’m sure you will. Thanks for listening, Patrick.

Thank you so much. Take care.

 

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About Oscar Trimboli

LFL S4 151 | Improve Your ListeningWho is Oscar?

Oscar Trimboli is an author, host of the Apple award-winning podcast Deep Listening and a sought-after keynote speaker. He is passionate about using the gift of listening to bring positive change in homes, workplaces and cultures around the world.

Through his work with chairs, boards of directors and executive teams in local, regional and global organisations, Oscar has experienced firsthand the transformational impact leaders and organisations can have when they listen beyond the words.

He believes that leadership teams need to focus their attention and their listening on building organisations that have impact and create powerful legacies for the people they serve – today and, more importantly, for future generations.

Oscar is a marketing and technology industry veteran with over 30 years’ experience across general management, sales, marketing and operations for Microsoft, PeopleSoft, Polycom, Professional Advantage and Vodafone.

He consults to organisations including Air Canada, AstraZeneca, BAE Systems, CBRE, Cisco, Commonwealth Bank, Energy Australia, Estia Health, Google, HSBC, IAG, Macquarie Bank, Microsoft, PayPal, Qantas, Reebok, SAP and TAL.

Oscar lives in Sydney with his wife Jennie, where he helps first-time runners and ocean swimmers conquer their fears and contributes to the cure for cancer as part of Can Too, a cancer research charity – www.cantoo.org.au.

 

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