Connect better with listening and asking

Leaders I coach are interested in staying connected with their teams. For some, this desire to connect is alongside a desire to empower. “I don’t want to be seen as micro-managing, especially now when the pandemic is causing stress.” With remote work there is the added challenge of not being able to just casually “pop in” but having to schedule time to meet.

Coaches are trained to connect with people, often virtually, and sometimes without any prior relationship. In our personal lives, we often connect to others through shared experiences or exploring our “likeness”. This is what we are doing when we trade pics of our kids or tell our own version of a story in response to what someone else has said. “I know, right, that happened to me one day too!”

To connect to people professionally is different. Instead of talking about yourself, you keep the focus on the other person. Coaches learn to connect with with anyone who is also interested in connection. We learn that connection is built through the skills of Active Listening and Powerful Questions.

Active Listening means unimpeded attention to the other person. It means no multi-tasking and even being cautious about taking too many notes. When we listen with our whole self, we hear more than the content, we also hear the context or can stay attuned enough to the humanity of the speaker that we know they have their own context, and we get curious about it. We might ask questions to show our level of interest…And then what? And what else? (called the AWE question). We ask, “What was that like for you?” and “What do you wish had happened?” The questions are powerful because of the positive impact they have.

You don’t have to be a coach to connect in this way. And you don’t need a lot of extra time. I am struck by how many people feel that no one listens to them at work. This feeling is exacerbated when you’re the new person on the team, or you have the least subject matter expertise-when assumptions are made about what you can contribute. Feelings of disengagement can sprout during times of isolation. Yet one conversation with the quality of listening and questioning can shatter the illusion that we’re separate because we are apart.

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