Karin’s Leadership Articles

10 Things to Do When Your Team’s Not Listening

by | Mar 7, 2016 | By Karin Hurt, Results & Execution|Winning Well |

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 Manger8- 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.

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.


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