10 questions to ask whe your team's not listening

10 Things to Do When Your Team’s Not Listening

Her call touched me deeply. She was trying so hard…to establish the right vision, to reinforce important behaviors, to scaffold and develop. Her team just wasn’t listening.

Perhaps you’ve been there too. You have a vision and you care deeply. You teach.  But no one seems to “get it”?

Here are ten questions to ask when you hit that wall.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself When 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 a little MBWA (management by walking around).

2- Do you say it often enough?
We’ve worked with so many frustrated leaders who tell us their team isn’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.”

Yeah, that’s not enough. If it’s important, try upping the frequency.

3- Do you check for understanding?
You always make sense to you. But do you make sense to them?  Ask your listeners what they heard.

4- Have you explained the “whys”?
Do people understand why you’re asking them to do something? Meaning makes your message memorable.

5- Are you ordering or inviting?
How can you include your team in the conversation? People own what they help to create.

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.

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. Be sure you know what you’re talking about. If you don’t, include others in the conversation who do.

Winning Well: A Manger's Guide to Getting Results without Losing Your Soul8- Do you listen?
Ask your team, “Is there anything you’ve been trying to tell me that I’m just not hearing?” Be quiet and listen. Thank them for sharing, and respond.

9- Do you speak their language?
Do 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?
Are you truly focused on results and relationships, or are other self-protecting or self motivations creeping in? There’s a big difference between wanting what’s best for the team and wanting what’s best for you. So what is it 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 no one’s listening, ask yourself these ten questions and mix up your communication a bit.

Interested in reading Winning Well with your team? You can download a FREE Winning Well book group facilitator’s guide here.

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

Posted in Results & Execution, Winning Well and tagged , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. 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 Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a 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.


  1. Awesome. Big yes. I see it with parents too. Kids don’t get the message and it ultimately leads to a blow up. “Because I said so” rarely leads to sustainable positive action.

    Will share!

    ~ Alli

    • Thanks, Alli. Yeah, “because I say so” doesn’t get much traction in my home either 😉

  2. Excellent article Karin! I will be sure to share this article on social media as well as with my leadership friends who lead teams. Awesome points here. I appreciate you!

  3. Excellent article Karin! All ten of your points are essential if leaders want to be heard. I would add that offering all the information is critical as well. I have noticed that sometimes pieces of information are not shared because managers fear their team doesn’t need all the facts. I believe that our teams do need as many facts and reasons behind what they are being asked to carry out. When documents or information is withheld, rumors float and solutions aren’t usually strong.

    Thanks Karin!

    • Terri, That’s a VERY important add. Thanks so much, as always for your great insights.

  4. Great post Karin! I see so many leaders struggling to understand why they need to repeat themselves, and how people learn differently, and how people are motivated. Well done!

  5. Great article, Karin. I find that when people don’t seem to be listening or don’t act like they heard, I ask them to repeat to me what I’ve told them. Maybe they heard something different from what I intended…or maybe they weren’t listening at all!

    But if you ask them to repeat back to you what they thought you said, it can nip misunderstandings in the bud. Or, if they weren’t listening, it forces them to process the information in a different way….

  6. Once again, I am reminded how leaders need to think about “triangulation” – get to the audience in two, three or more ways. Different media. I also think about how people don’t read any more. Ok, that is a gross exaggeration, but many people scan, read headlines, subjects, and fail to get to the meat that is in the body of an email or letter. Do we need a different way of writing that connects better with a younger and younger workforce? There is nothing wrong with the millennial -but many of them are accustomed to quicker, shorter, more lively messaging. If we can’t get through to them … we won’t get through to other stakeholders and our customers. Look at me … once again, I’m writing too much!

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