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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