Monthly Archives: June 2014

Active Listenting? What?

Active ListeningMost people have heard the term “active listening,” but there is a lot of misunderstanding about what it means. Some people have the impression that the skill is characterized by gestures, facial expressions and other non-verbal communication tactics that convince the speaker of the listener’s attention. This is much too superficial, though. Here are a few points on what active listing is, why it is important, and how you can get better at it.

Active listening is the action of focusing entirely on the listening portion of a conversation, with the intentional effort to block out distractions that take away from the listener’s ability to receive and process. Put simply, it is a focused effort to receive the message the speaker is sending.

The skill is important in that it makes communication more effective and efficient. The messages are being conveyed completely and accurately and there are no misunderstandings. We all want to understand and be understood, and active listening makes it possible.

Here are a few common obstacles to active listening and ways to avoid falling victim to them.

Choose the Right Time and Place: Some conversations need to be held in a place where complete attention can be given by all parties. The more important and detailed the conversation, the more likely that time and place-planning will help. A quiet, distraction-free environment can make all the difference.

Have a Goal: Conversations that are driven by a goal will be more productive. If you, as a supervisor, need to speak with a subordinate employee about something important, take a moment to jot down what you need to know and formulate a few questions that will help you get the information you need.

Turn Off Brain Chatter: Have you ever been speaking with someone when you realized you missed what she said because your brain went somewhere else? Awareness of this phenomenon can help you reduce it. Practice turning off the self-talk so you can focus on what’s being said. Don’t allow yourself to fall in the trap of “waiting for my turn to speak.”

Ask Questions to Learn More: Ask for clarification. Ask for more detail. Engage in genuine conversation by asking questions, and listen while and until the other person finishes the thought.

Recap: After you have heard what you thought you heard, summarize by saying, “If I understood you properly, you said…” If you can paraphrase what you heard in this way, it will be clear that you were listening well. Communication and team cohesiveness will both benefit.

Active listening takes effort, but it is worth it. Better communication, greater efficiency, and fewer communication breakdowns are just the beginning. Try these tips and let us know how it works for you.

Learning Dynamics offers many engaging training programs that teach these and other communication skills. Contact Learning Dynamics today for a complimentary consultation.

What’s My Part?

Do you agree that people are resistant to change? Many reflexively agree with the idea – and they are often right – but it is not always the case. Sometimes people will embrace change if they just get some information. Most importantly, they want to understand how they fit in.

Whenever a change is made, leaders should go through a check of all communication to ensure that the basics are addressed.

WHAT is happening? What are the most important elements of the change?

WHEN is it happening? Team members need to understand the time frame so they can prepare.

WHY are we doing it? Share as much as you can. Work to be honest about competitive pressures, financial impacts, customer service improvements, and anything else that helped justify the change decision.


See “Why Your Change Message isn’t Getting Through” for more about leading change well


WHO will lead and participate in the change? Some individuals and workgroups will be affected more than others. Clarify the details.

HOW are we going to do this? Leaders have to explain the plan. Great leaders seek input from their teams to improve engagement and results. Teams that own the change also get through the emotional effects of radical change more quickly than those who are simply affected by it.

And this is where What’s my part?” is critical. If a change is important – and if it isn’t, why are you doing it? – committed employees want to be a part of it. When it succeeds, they want to be able to write themselves into the story, to paint themselves into the picture. Everyone wants to be on a winning team, and every player wants time in the game to make a difference.

Consider all these points and give everyone a chance to be part of the success. This is foundational to teamwork and leadership.


Learning Dynamics will help your company’s leaders prepare for, communicate about, and lead change. Visit our website for more information about our many customizable training programs.