Effective listening is a habit that your entire team needs to develop. You can speed this development through several actions early in the project.
• Be aware of the skill level of the team. That will tell you how quickly and how formally you need to address the skill.
• Plan time to teach the skills. Over the course of the project, it is appropriate to spend some time attending to the team's effectiveness. Show a video, pass out and discuss a good article (or this chapter), or bring in a professional trainer to instruct the team.
• As the project leader, you can demonstrate effective listening, which teaches by example.
• Look for effective listening behaviors within the team. Point them out as you debrief a team meeting, emphasizing how active listening contributed to a better discussion.
• Add "active listening" as a desired behavior to your ground rules. Use the ground rules as a reminder during meetings if discussions start to degenerate into arguments.
Teaching the team to listen pays off rapidly. It is not a difficult skill, but it does take practice and a conscious attempt to improve.
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We can all recall situations where we have utterly failed to listen to what someone else is saying. For various reasons, we are simply not taking in anything useful. How many times have you been introduced to a person by name only to not know what their name is thirty seconds later?