Q: I just received feedback that colleagues don't think I pay attention to what they say and that I'm dismissive of their needs. I pride myself on my listening skills, but often they want things that aren't possible. What do I do about this impasse?
A: Take this feedback as a gift, and focus on understanding their perspectives.
THE INNER GAME
It can be hard to accept when there is a disconnect between your self-image and the feedback you receive from others. However, this can provide insight that opens up an entirely new level of personal development and self-awareness.
This can only occur if you keep your mind open about what your colleagues are telling you. Start by setting aside your resistance to their feedback. After all, what if you decide that they're right and you really aren't hearing them?
For someone who values listening as a skill, ignoring feedback is the ultimate contradiction. Also consider their motivation; they likely are providing these comments as a genuine reflection of a desire for a successful working relationship.
Get outside yourself, and imagine interactions with you from a colleague's perspective. Notice your body language. Are you open or closed? Do you interrupt? Do you make good eye contact and engage verbally in a way that shows that you are taking in the other person's point?
Also seek more detailed feedback from your boss or a trusted colleague. It'll be much easier to adapt your behavior if you understand specifically where the issues are.
THE OUTER GAME
Become a person who listens to understand. When a colleague comes to you with an issue, it's OK not to have the answer. In fact, if you rush to solutions, you may be causing the problematic outcome you're experiencing. Instead, draw them out about the topic at hand. "Tell me more" is the easiest way to start, because it works in virtually every situation. It also gives you the opportunity to hear what's going on below the surface.
Once the issue is more fully clarified, explore what his or her desired outcome is. For example, he or she may say that he or she wants a newsletter developed. Rather than saying there isn't a budget for that, ask about his or her goals for the newsletter. Then you can jointly explore other ways to get his or her need met.
Continue to solicit feedback, perhaps asking your boss to do a mini 360 review on just that topic. You could also ask a trusted co-worker to keep an eye on this aspect of your behavior to notice your progress.
Don't be afraid to let people know you're trying to change this, too. It'll be appreciated, and the support you get will make it easier. You could make a game of it with people who are close to you – maybe putting a dollar in a lunch fund each time you slip or giving them a humorous way to call you on it if you're ignoring their point of view. And don't forget to celebrate your successes!
THE LAST WORD
Bringing along your listening skills will help you in ways you can't even imagine, building your personal and professional success.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes. Submit questions or comments about this column at www.deliverchange.com/coachscorner or email her at email@example.com.
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