Listen to understand rather than listening to respond

When a new team comes together, it’s interesting to watch the dynamics.  In my world, there are a lot of strong personalities.  Really smart people with great ideas and a desire to go beyond what’s expected.  It makes for some interesting forming.  The last team I set up had some great conversations about stories and, initially, I don’t think anyone heard them except for me.  I found myself saying things like  “A – What did you think of what B just said?” a LOT.  Prior to going into their first sprint, we had a retro.  Happily the team identified communication as their focus in their first sprint together.  They identified and agreed to actions:

  • Don’t wait to ask questions because everyone on the team will benefit from the answers.
  • If you don’t understand or agree, say so.
  • Listen to each other.

Listening to understand can be so difficult.  I know it can be for me.  It used to be impossible for me.  I was certain I knew exactly what someone’s point was and would have my brilliant response ready before they had even finished talking.  Generally, I would interrupt and impart my wisdom only to find out I missed the point entirely.  I conveyed something similar to the team once they had agreed on their actions and they modified that third bullet to what is now in the title.

I try to always remember this myself.  I’ve gotten better, but it will always be something I have to work on.  All this Agile transformation going on has my brain in overdrive, but I’m of no use to a team or anyone else if I’m not listening to understand.

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