Why Well Tuned Listening Skills Are Key for Effective Executive Team Building

by | Aug 27, 2013

exec_coach_blog_oct_01Effective executive team building does not happen by chance.

How do you get people to follow you? How do you get your team to buy into the organization’s vision? How can you most effectively share your opinions and thoughts? How can you educate a skeptical prospective client about your products or services?

Developing keen listening skills are essential in order to have a successful “enrollment conversation,” which is an invaluable method to:

  • Introduce new ideas to a team
  • Describe your services to a client (e.g., have a sales conversation)

Enrollment and Agreement Are Not the Same

The enrollment conversation is aptly named because it involves “enrolling” another in your vision (e.g., the vision for your company in the case of team management or the vision about your product and service in the case of sales).

What does it mean to be enrolled in a vision? Absolute agreement is not the initial goal; there can be different levels of enrollment as long as everyone is headed in the same direction. Effective executive team building is a process requiring trust and commitment by all parties to a shared path forward.

The best analogy is a small crowd, which represents your organization or potential clients, where everyone is facing the same way. You are leading the pack. Some might be with you on the front lines; others hang back and wait to see what happens. Along that spectrum, the most important consideration is that everybody is bearing on a unified purpose.

Rather than simply making a request of an employee or offering a service to a client, my advice is to explain what will be achieved with an initiative, product, or service, and indicate specifically how it will benefit the individual or team. Thus, the prospect feels included when you actively tune your listening to incorporate their ideas while enrolling them in your project.

Secure Enrollment by Tuning Your Listening

It is essential to be prepared to receive others’ feedback of your vision during enrollment conversations. Once their doubts are addressed and their questions are answered, they can they join you in your mission.

When you take an open-minded approach, you create an invaluable environment where people feel comfortable asking questions and sharing ideas. Whether the conversation takes place in the boardroom, on the sales floor, or on the phone with clients, separate the idea from the person and consider it aloud for its own merit. What works about this idea? What doesn’t? Going a step further, can you put yourself into the other person’s shoes? Are you able to understand what motivates their opinions, doubts, or misconceptions?

Lots of managers and entrepreneurs struggle when hearing negativity around their idea or initiative. Having tolerance to listen and vigorously exploring why a person disagrees are essential skills. It educates the leader on how they can improve, and creates opportunities to educate others about the validity of a plan. This is a challenge for any leader but it is key to building an effective executive team building process and creating solid support for you and your initiative.

Often, what one person is thinking is echoed in others’ minds. For instance, a manager could lead this conversation: “Joe feels very strongly about this action. What are his reasons? What can we learn?” Joe may have some valid concerns and some valuable input that may only be discovered if keenly explored. Then again, he may not. In any case, a good leader responds with, “Thank you for sharing your perspective. Here’s my experience and the reasons why I don’t think it fits.” Joe’s opinion is just that—an opinion —- but it is recognized and considered before being set aside. In that way, everyone is on the same page and enrolled in the conversation.

Addressing this feedback is an important part of making your point while developing your team and helping them understand your vision and mission. Meanwhile, answering questions about a product or service during a sales conversation builds trust with a client, and sets the stage for lasting, loyal engagements. When you make time for an enrollment conversation, you are investing in the future of your business through healthy client relationships.

Listen and Consider First

As humans, our natural tendency is to listen for agreement. We tend to speak over the other party with reasons why they need to change their minds and why they should agree with us. This is intolerance at its worst. It indicates that we are not really hearing what others are saying.

Tuning your listening is quite the opposite. You are truly hearing the other person, even if you disagree or don’t like what’s being said. This is a key leadership skill that will enable you to transform your executive team building process.

Your team must work together and, within that team, it is important to close the gaps in thinking and belief systems. Tuning your listening to what others are saying truly helps people explain why they think the way they do, and delivers the confidence that they have been heard and understood.

Understanding others is critical. Using a systematic approach, I invite participants to speak about their approach to an idea while others take notes on how this team member is thinking. Practicing this type of tactic can be challenging and time consuming; however, by opening your ears and mind to how others approach a problem, you also create opportunities for new, untapped potential to flourish within your organization and yourself. Try it!

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