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Teams Not Listening? Some questions you should be asking…

Your team’s not listening and you’re getting frustrated. Sure they could be better listeners. But what if it’s not just them, but you? Try changing up your communication a bit with these practical and proven communication techniques. You’ll reduce frustration (for all of you), increase productivity, and build deeper trust.

Start with these 5 Questions if Your Team’s Not Listening

Here are five questions to ask when you find your team’s not listening.

1- Do you say it in different ways?

People learn differently. Some by seeing. Others by hearing.  And others, through practice. Any important message is worth sharing 5 times, 5 different ways.

For example, to communicate a new procedure, you might use email, a staff meeting, a quick huddle, one-on-ones, and follow-up with an executive visit (p.s. here are a few tips for doing executive visits well).

If your team’s not listening, try mixing it up at bit.

teams not listening - consistent communication of key messages 5 ways

2- Do you say it often enough?

We’ve worked with so many frustrated leaders who tell us they lead teams that just aren’t listening. When we ask if they’ve communicated the issue to their team, they say “yes.” But when we say when here’s what they say.

“Last year.”
“At that off-site the year before last.”
“We were in the hallway six months ago.”
“At the staff meeting last month.”
“In an email.”

If your team’s not listening, try upping the frequency.

3- Do you check for understanding?

You always make sense to yourself. But do you make sense to them?  Ask your listeners what they heard. Our clients tell us the “check for understanding” is one of the most practical and useful tools they take away from our leadership development programs.

4- Have you explained the “whys”?

Do people understand why you’re asking them to do something? Meaning makes your message memorable. Here’s why it’s so important to ensure your team understands the “whys.” Click on the image to the right for more on the 7 strategic questions your team should be able to answer.

5- Are you ordering or inviting?

If your team’s not listening consider how you can better include your team in the conversation.

People own what they help to create.

Try our “nine what’s” coaching methodology to help your team solve more problems on their own.

And a Few More Important Approaches to Consider

6- Do you know what matters to them?

Everyone values something. If the values you promote conflict with your people’s values, you’ll have trouble being heard. Are you a human-centered leader who puts people before projects?

If your team’s not listening, consider your human connection.

P.S. Our new Team Accelerator Program is a great structured way to have these conversations.

7- Do you have credibility?

If your team can say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” and they have evidence to back up their conclusion, expect to be ignored.

And, you don’t have to be the expert. If your team is not listening, show up with confident-humility and surround yourself with people who can help you lead in that arena as you learn along the way.

teams not listening - and other tools with Winning Well

Click here to learn more about Winning Well

8- Do YOU listen?

Ask your team, “Is there anything you’ve been trying to tell me that I’m just not hearing?” Are you inviting them to share their ideas?  Be quiet and listen. Thank them for sharing, and respond with regard.

9- Do you speak their language?

If your team is not listening, try changing you your language.

Ask yourself if the words and concepts you use mean the same thing to your team that they mean to you?

Are you sharing numbers and facts when stories would serve them better? Or, are you telling too many stories to a “just the facts” guy.

10- What do you really want?

There’s a big difference between wanting what’s best for the team and wanting what’s best for you. If your team’s not listening, consider what it is that you really want.

If the answer is submission—“I know what’s best, and they’d better listen to me”— you won’t ever have a team that wins well.

They will act out of fear when they have to and ignore you when they feel it’s safe. When you want more—for the group to succeed together, to make an impact—you’re on your way to Winning Well.

If you feel as if teams are not listening, ask yourself these ten questions and mix up your communication a bit.

Interested in reading Winning Well with your team? You can download the first few chapters of Winning Well or our latest book, Courageous Cultures how to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates at these links for free.

See more in our Fast Company article: 3 Reasons Your Employees Aren’t Listening to You.

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

Be More Daring


Get the FREE Courageous Cultures E-Book to learn how

7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

Be More Daring


Get the FREE Courageous Cultures E-Book to learn how

7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

Leadership Training Programs