By Allison O'Brien
Listening requires commitment and intention, but that resolve is well worth the effort.
We take listening for granted. It’s often something we do habitually, and unconsciously. Think about it, how often do you pause after a conversation or a meeting to consider how you feel; do you assess your energy level after an interaction? When you do stop to check in, you might notice that some conversations energize you, while others drain you. Without knowing the science of listening, we might chalk that up to how busy we are, how well we slept the night before or even how much we like the people we were talking with. However, if we are familiar with the concept of Listening Intelligence, a brief personal inquiry after a conversation wraps up can explain what has us feeling inspired and alert versus sapped and worn out.
Here's what the science says. Over time, people develop habitual ways of listening that determine how they make meaning of what they hear. Listening is a cognitive process that begins with the ability to detect sounds and observe other physical input, like visual cues and body language, that then go through various manipulations in the brain (e.g., attention, interpretation, evaluation) to create meaning. Listening is much more than hearing and knowing the meaning of the exact words and phrases used by the speaker. It is making sense of what we hear by filtering the information through our unique habitual preferences of what we tend to listen to and for. This is why any two individuals are likely to take different types of information away from the same interaction. Although they are hearing the same thing, their unique preferences have them pick up different information. And when individuals leave an interaction with different constructed meanings, the likelihood of misunderstanding increases. This is also why being aware of our habitual filters is so critically important for preventing costly misunderstandings and miscommunications.
Our listening habits determine what we pay attention to, when we disengage, and also influence what we think about, care about, and talk about. The ECHO Listening Profile™, the first and only scientifically validated cognitive-based listening assessment, is the most reliable way of gaining valuable insight and self-awareness into our habits.
When we get to know our preferred habits, we can develop Listening Intelligence, the ability to adjust our listening to the people, context, and situation at hand. We can then do a better job of staying present and engaged and ultimately expand our understanding of the situation.
The bottom line is that listening often requires hard work. It’s not passive. The amount of energy we are required to expend to understand what is being said is dependent on how easy or difficult it is for us to stay present, engaged and connected to the topic at hand and the people involved. That ease or difficulty is directly correlated with what we mentioned above, our habitual listening preferences. We often put the pressure on others to engage us rather than taking personal responsibility for our level of presence or interest in the conversation. We can even justify checking out if we believe the speaker is boring, doesn’t know what they’re talking about, rambles on, or is too emotional.
If we want to have more meaningful and productive conversations, the ownness is on us to level-up our listening. Here are three simple steps that can set you on your way:
Get present. Understanding brain physiology can help. We are physiologically hard-wired to get distracted. Most people speak at a rate of roughly 125 words per minute. However, our brains have the capacity to process more than 700 words per minute. This discrepancy between rate of speech and thought is often a contributing factor in our ability to stay attentive and focused, especially when the content of the conversation is not in alignment with our default listening biases. However, we can quickly return to listening by simply realizing we’re distracted and then shifting back to the present moment by asking ourselves, “what is the purpose and intended outcome of the conversation? What do I need to be listening for?”
Listen to Learn. When we’re focused on learning, and aside our judgements, assessments, and opinions, we’re less susceptible to distractions. When we’re interested, our minds don’t wander. Identify what you want to know more about.
Ask open-ended questions. When we listen with a genuine desire to learn, questions organically arise that inspire deeper thinking. Resist the temptation to listen to solve the problem, while remaining open to hearing something that will navigate the conversation towards a deeper collaborative outcome.
To learn more about developing Listening Intelligence in leaders and teams and a practical conversational framework for applying it, CONTACT US.
By Allison O'Brien
Have you ever been in a meeting really wanting to say something, but instead you stay silent? We’ve all been there. We withhold what we think because we’re afraid of the consequences of sharing our honest opinion, or too scared to push back on an idea or course of action that the rest of the team accepts and agrees upon. We don’t speak up or risk embarrassment because we’re not 100% sure the team will accept or understand what we have to say. Or we simply stay silent because we don’t trust our gut, or we discount what we’re feeling. The root cause of our silence can often be linked to a deeper systemic issue, a lack of Psychological Safety within our team or perhaps throughout the entire organization.
The term “psychological safety” was coined by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson. She defines it as “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.” In a healthy environment, one in which psychological safety thrives, there is a shared belief that “one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking."
History has proven that there can be calamitous outcomes when employees withhold. Think about the Chernobyl disaster and the 2014 GM ignition switch issue, which caused the largest auto recall to date at the time. In both cases, operators, engineers and others close to the work didn’t speak up despite deep concerns. In both cases, there was a company culture of silence, obfuscation, and fear of retribution for raising concerns and voicing opinions. But what if those companies had cultures built upon listening, encouraged diverse perspective and all voices were welcome? Could those disasters have been averted?
Of course, not every withheld opinion results in a company’s financial ruin, reputation downgrade or loss of life. But keeping silent limits innovation and impedes collaborative thinking. We need to build cultures where vulnerability and willingness to share one’s perspective is not just “safe” but is sought after.
The Trifecta: Psychological Safety, Cognitive Diversity, and Listening Intelligence
Research proves that high-stakes decision making, and team productivity improve when different thinkers come together with an ability to not only hear each other out, but search for solutions that combine different viewpoints. That last part is crucial. When we actively seek different viewpoints, the group becomes smarter together than any one individual could be on their own. Cognitive diversity alone won’t guarantee great decisions and high productivity, but it will heighten the chances for a well-rounded strategic perspective, and the way to get there is with psychological safety and a commitment to Listening Intelligence.
What is Listening Intelligence and how can teams develop it?
A crucial step leaders can take to improve psychological safety within their team is to provide formal training using the science of listening. One such training is called LIFT™ - Listening Intelligence for Leaders and Teams. In this modularized training, participants walk away with a new approach to listening, gain insights and awareness about their own communication style and learn the SCAN™ Model, a practical framework for navigating conversation.
Listening is a skill. Just like most skills we can develop it with training, attention, and practice. It is built from self-awareness, connection to others and desire to adapt to various conversational circumstances with diverse people.
When teams hold the fundamental tenet of appreciation and respect for unique and potentially conflicting viewpoints, the individuals that make up the team consciously feel more comfortable speaking up. They are willing to respectfully challenge broadly accepted ideas and use Listening Intelligence to navigate high-stakes conversation towards better collaborative outcomes. Thriving teams within psychologically safe cultures are capable of transcending the personality conflicts that often get in the way of solving the real business problems. Contact us to learn more about harnessing Listening Intelligence to create psychological safety.
By Allison O'Brien
When choosing a career, it is surprising to hear that the majority of those who end up in sales admit that they never intended to follow that path. Of those that do, only 29% admit receiving any formal sales training, leaving it difficult to navigate their way to success. Consequently, less than 50% meet their goals. Given those statistics, it makes sense that the average tenure of an SDR, (Sales Development Representative), is only 1.5 years, with just 8% remaining in the role for more than three years. To make matters worse, 14% of SDRs voluntarily turnover annually, costing companies millions of dollars per year. Shockingly, the average cost to replace an employee can be three to four times higher than the position’s salary itself. And that doesn’t even account for lost sales during the hiring and onboarding process.
To counter the excessive cost of repeatedly replacing individuals on the sales force, data shows that a company can improve success rates by as much as 29% with effective sales coaching. In fact, research reveals that sales training reaps a staggering 353% ROI for the average company. That’s a $4.53 return on every $1 spent. Companies that provide decent sales coaching increased revenue 95% more than companies that do not provide this kind of training.
With 69% of buyers saying that they wish sales reps would listen to them and only 13% of customers believing that sales reps truly understand their needs, it is essential to add listening as a primary piece of missing sales training. Today’s progressive sales managers understand this disconnect and are including a training called "Listening Intelligence.” This training changes the sales approach by using science to identify their buyer’s listening preferences and tuning into the subtle cues provided in the language they use and the types of questions they ask.
The Listening Intelligence work is based on research that has identified four main listening types or habits. Our style of listening is a habit, rather than a hard-wired trait. Just like individuals express themselves in different ways, they also have unique ways of listening and processing information.
Teaching your teams to understand the four habits can provide them a significant 'leg up' in connecting with prospects and engaging in a smooth and successful sales process. While everyone uses all four types of listening to varying degrees, most people tend to rely on a preferred or “dominant” style.
People with a high preference for Connective Listening listen to how information will affect others. They are primarily concerned with how well your product or service will benefit their fellow employees, their clients, or other constituents they have a personal investment in. By contrast, highly Reflective Listeners will filter communication mainly through their own interests and purposes. They want to know what this purchase will mean for them, and will tend to carefully consider information against their own knowledge and experience.
Highly Analytical Listeners, listen for detailed facts and quantifiable data. They make decisions based on accurate, sourced information, and will ask for metrics to support their decision-making process.
Conceptual Listeners, tend to focus on 'big picture' ideas and possibilities. They are apt to get excited about how your product can help shape their organization's future and will ideate about and explore any unique and far-reaching qualities your product brings to the table.
One of the best ways to gain insight into the listening habits of others is by asking open-ended questions, like:
Connective listeners will respond to questions by sharing concerns or asking about the impact the product or service might have on others; will it be an easy transition for the team, how much more work will it put on employees, will they have the support they need, etc. They will use words like we, they and our.
Reflective listeners will seek personal relevance more than concerning themselves with how your product or service will affect others. They often use “I” and statements or phrases like "in my opinion," "I used to" or "in my experience."
Analytical listeners will respond by referencing data, sources, and metrics while seeking more fact-based information. They may use short or choppy sentences like: “prove it”, “what’s your source?” or “where’s the data?”
Conceptual listeners may offer new suggestions, ideas or additional insights as you are presenting, and ask for a broader application than what is being discussed at the moment. They may say something like: “have you ever considered”, “you know what else you could use this for” or “this reminds me of…”
Having a firm grasp of your prospect or lead's listening style can give you insights on how best to share important information leading them toward next steps in the sales process. If you're not speaking their listening language, both parties may miss the fact that what you have to offer is actually a great match for their current or future goals.
Since listening is half the communication equation, using the ECHO Listening Profile™, the first and only scientifically validated cognitive-based listening assessment, as a foundational component in your sales training program, ensures that your teams have a cutting-edge understanding of customer communications. The confidence this gives them will help them reach their goals and maintain long tenures as successful contributors. Listening Intelligence may just be the missing link in your sales training to increase employee retention and drive revenue.
For more information about integrating Listening Intelligence into your current sales training, please contact us.
By Naomi Honig
We’ve all had that experience.
You walk out of a meeting, charged up by the exciting plan that was just agreed upon. Days later you realize what you thought about the direction does not exactly align with what your peers took away from the meeting. Your work comes to a sudden stop. You’ll need to regroup with everyone in a follow up meeting to straighten things out. The work you and others had already completed missed the mark due to the miscommunication. Your frustration is at a boiling point because this kind of false start happens constantly.
You are not alone!
In fact, small to medium businesses throw away nearly $500,000 per year due to lost productivity stemming from miscommunication. And in my experience, it’s more common than not in the unique start-up workplace.
Having scaled people functions across several start-ups and high-growth businesses in varied industries, I have observed first-hand the dynamics of several types of leadership teams: founder led, founder transitioning, professionally led. I’ve also been a part of different types of start-up environments: well funded, bootstrap, privately funded, venture capital and private equity funded. I’m even fortunate to have co-founded my own company which scaled and was acquired. In all these organizations, the one constant is that decisions and resulting actions typically occur much more quickly (sometimes too quickly) than in established companies that inherently have more bureaucracy built in. Start-ups tend to be fast-paced, high- stress work environments, where people often wear many different hats and need to be scrappy and hyper-efficient with capital and headcount. However, this often leads to meetings where participants are distracted or multitasking—answering questions, checking emails, making grocery lists. This causes misaligned outcomes. And it costs start-ups valuable time and money.
When attempting to improve workplace communication, start-up employees are commonly provided resources such as psychological type or style assessments and tools to help them become more effective speakers. I’ve noticed that listening, which is half of the communication equation, is largely neglected. Yet I commonly find myself in conversations with employees, from executives to individual contributors, who are frustrated because they don’t feel like their manager is truly listening to them.
I recently worked with a management team that was composed of several highly analytical listeners. Since we tend to highlight the type of information we prefer to listen to, these managers structured their entire operations around data and evaluated the performance of their team almost exclusively on objectives that could be measured. The direction they provided for their team only took into account data-driven rationales. They were quick to write off anecdotal reasoning for business challenges when reported by their team. The team became more and more reluctant to share feedback with their leaders. Both leadership and the team were frustrated and the situation had reached a boiling point.
With a lens toward more effective listening, I was able to identify and work with the leadership team to recognize that while facts and data were critical in driving business outcomes it wasn’t what their team was listening for all of the time. Recognizing this context and sharing additional compelling information while shifting their speaking to their team’s listening preferences would unlock better understanding and rebuild trust.
While research proves that we form listening habits, with awareness and practice we can widen the aperture of how and what we listen for. We can even tailor our listening to who is speaking, making us much more effective communicators. In this example, I successfully used the ECHO Listening Profile, a statistically validated listening assessment, paired with other communications training modules such as trust, effective feedback, emotional agility, and accountability to build the Listening Intelligence of the team.
Feeling truly heard at work, regardless of whether you agree or not, builds trust and belonging, and nurtures a positive work culture. Workplace communication (speaking and listening) is directly tied to employee satisfaction and low turnover rates. People join startups specifically because they like to move quickly and see the immediate impact of their work. Simply put, if employees are not heard, especially in these types of work environments, they leave.
This churn in a startup environment not only has a tremendous cost in recruiting and training expense, but also contributes to a tremendous loss in productivity and inefficient cross functional interactions. Most businesses in this stage simply cannot afford to not have their team in lockstep to drive business strategy forward. Investing in the listening side of the communication equation is a crucial tool to prevent that outcome. Rather than having a start-up culture of churn and burn, engaged, intentional listening will help retain your great people and be your competitive edge.
Naomi Honig is Founder and Principal of Three Hive Strategy. She spent almost a decade helping to operate and scale the Boulder-based mission-focused, high-growth restaurant group, The Kitchen. She simultaneously co-founded her own CPG company, Birch Benders, which was acquired by Sovos Brands in 2020. Naomi joined the ECHO Listening Intelligence Certified Practitioner community in 2018.
By Dana Dupuis
Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. DE&I, for short.
An important yardstick for thriving, healthy organizations or the latest initiative of the month? Superficial or structural, as this Harvard Business Review article probes?
Sparked by the global reckoning over the racial injustices that plague modern society and fueled by workers’ demands for their employers to take a stand on social issues that were previously taboo at work, many organizations have prioritized DE&I programs and initiatives over the last two years.
How has it gone?
A Gartner article from the past May reports that “Forty-four percent of employees agree a growing number of their colleagues feel alienated by their organization’s DEI efforts, 42% of employees report their peers view their organizations’ DEI efforts as divisive, and another 42% say their peers resent DEI efforts.”
A Connection to Listening
We noticed that “listening sessions” had become a common tool utilized in DE&I programs, so we were thrilled when the leader of a large DE&I team from a global technology company approached us about helping them dig deeper into the art and science of listening.
Our experience has shown that many companies are eager to roll out their DE&I initiatives, but they have not armed their program leaders with the tools that can help them successfully collaborate on the varied, and often controversial, subject matter. Imagine the work these leaders face within this triple-threat arena:
Improving the ability to listen is necessary to ensure productive dialogue and an outcome that enhances humanity among all employees.
Learning about the basic mechanics of how we listen gave the DE&I team a new way to think about what was previously perceived as automatic. Understanding that we hear with our ears and listen, or make sense of what we hear, with our brains was an eye-opening introduction to Listening Intelligence for the team.
When we took it a step further and explained that neuroscience has proven no two brains are alike, which means no two people truly listen the same, this information aligned with the foundational concept of diversity. The fact that we all listen differently can be transformational when we recognize that communication is equally influenced by speaking and listening. What we think about and care about is not only what we listen for but then what we speak about.
Another game changer for the group was learning about the four dominant listening styles:
Connective: listens for what’s important to others, empathetically
Reflective: listens for what's important to oneself, personally
Analytical: listens for facts and data
Conceptual: listens for brainstorming opportunities and possibilities
Understanding the way someone listens helps us better identify what they may or may not pick up in conversation. This not only makes sense but also helped the group recognize how they could shift their own communication to be better understood using the four styles.
When we finished our Listening Intelligence training and the DE&I team got back to work, the feedback we received described how their new awareness of the science of listening improved their effectiveness. Specifically, we heard:
The group as a whole explained that learning the basics of the four different ways people listen gave them a better understanding of why some employees seem easy to work with while others seem more difficult. It is not that their issues are too big or not worth our involvement; the difficulty lies in how they articulate their concerns and how their leaders listen to them. When a leader has a different listening style from the employee, the information gathered seemed to contrast from what the employee intended and often seemed to have missing information.
A story that one DE&I leader shared with us explained how learning about Listening Intelligence helped him appreciate the need to adapt his listening and leadership to succeed with his team members:
“My leadership style is consistent with my listening style. I want the facts and not a lot of fluff. I lead by example and want others to do the same. It’s pretty simple but at the same time it is my way or the highway and not much sways me from that. In the morning of our training we learned about the four listening styles. At lunch I had a call with one of the managers on my DE&I team. I jumped on the call, told her what I needed from her and was quick to try to close down the conversation. All of a sudden I realized I was speaking exactly the way I listen, which is: get it done and don’t waste any time. At that moment, I stopped, took a breath and said, “by the way, how are you doing?” There was a huge pause from my colleague and then she began to talk. She was hesitant at first but then she started to open up. We had about a ten minute call and at the end, she thanked me for taking the time to expand beyond my typical call. I walked away with a new appreciation for her and the start of a friendship that we never had before. I know it was just one conversation, but it was unlike any I had previously. I knew she was more of a Connective listener than I was and by shifting my listening needs to consider hers, we moved our work relationship to a place of mutual respect.”
This team had experienced many different types of professional development training in the past. However, after exposure to training devoted to Listening Intelligence, there was renewed confidence and sign of ease from the team that they had not experienced before. This was because their ability to communicate and truly listen to their fellow employees had been elevated. The act of listening was no longer something they did on autopilot; it was a skill that they now realized was dynamic, and they now had the tools and capability to meet the cares and concerns of others confidently. This is not to say Listening Intelligence training solves all issues, but it does change the trajectory of a conversation from the start when someone feels listened to and heard.
By Allison O'Brien
Sales is as much about having the right opportunities as it is about handling those opportunities in the right way.
While 60% of companies take a random or informal approach to sales coaching, research reveals that sales training reaps a staggering 353% ROI for the average company. That’s a $4.53 return on every $1 spent! Empowering your sales team with the right tools and quality training that leverages the science of Listening Intelligence is a surefire way to improve close ratios and ultimately advance the company’s financial goals.
The Training Landscape
Companies spend an estimated $70 billion on sales training per year. Most sales training programs available today focus on only one half of the communication equation—speaking—yet 69% of buyers say they wish sales reps would listen to them. With only 13% of customers believing that sales reps understand their needs, it’s crystal clear the missing piece in sales training is listening, not speaking.
One type of training to meet this need helps sales professionals develop Listening Intelligence--the ability to adjust our listening to the people, context, and situation at hand. This training helps sales professionals identify and understand their own default listening preferences, meaning the types of information they tend to tune in to and what they might unintentionally filter out, and it helps sales teams identify the way each individual client filters, analyzes, and interprets the information they hear. By tuning in to the subtle cues that clients provide in the language they use and the types of questions they ask, sales reps can adjust how they share information to speak into those listening preferences and communicate the value of their offering more effectively.
Listening Intelligence training uses the ECHO Listening Profile™, the first and only cognitive-based listening assessment, as the foundational component to improve a sales professional’s self-awareness, and it provides the tools to assess and develop a cutting-edge understanding of a customer’s communication needs.
Identifying the Four Main Listening Styles
Science reveals that our style of listening is a habit rather than a hard-wired trait. Our listening habits are related to what we care about, think about, and speak about, and they influence how we make decisions. It is critically important for sales professionals to understand their own listening habits before trying to diagnose others. Once they have developed deep understanding and self-awareness, they can begin to observe the listening of others. By identifying a prospect’s listening habits, you become one step closer to understanding what influences their decision-making process and the criteria they use when committing to a sale.
While everyone uses all four types of listening to varying degrees, many people tend to rely on a preferred or “dominant” style.
People with a high preference for Connective Listening listen to how information will affect others. As the most relationally oriented listeners, they are primarily concerned with how well your product or service will benefit others, usually meaning their fellow employees, their clients, or other constituents they have a personal investment in. You can often recognize Connective Listeners by their tendency to ask you about yourself and engage in friendly conversation before getting down to business. They tend to appear engaged by nodding, leaning forward, and making eye contact. If you have connected on a personal level, this type of listener may leave you with the impression you’ve closed the deal. However, if you get co-opted by the rapport you’ve built and haven’t done your due diligence or asked enough qualifying questions, you may leave out critical information that would allow the buyer to make the most informed decision. You might end up surprised to find the answer is a “no” despite feeling good about the initial interaction.
By contrast, highly Reflective Listeners will filter communication mainly through their own interests and purposes. They want to know what this purchase will mean for them and will tend to carefully consider information against their own knowledge and experience. They tend to consider very carefully everything being said, and they may not say very much, which can convey the false impression that they’re not interested in buying from you. In reality, they’re actively asking themselves things like, How will I integrate this solution? Will this be an improvement over the product we tried to incorporate last year? If I become an advocate for this and it benefits the company, might that lead to a promotion? You can often recognize Reflective Listeners by a more reserved or held-back demeanor. They can appear distant, almost disengaged, because they tend to lean back with arms crossed and gaze past the speaker versus making direct eye contact. Because of this, sales professionals can be left with the impression that this is no longer an active prospect and might even forgo following up based on these false perceptions and assumptions. However, it certainly pays to reach out, as a highly Reflective buyer may reconnect to share their thoughts or questions, which are often quite thoroughly considered by that point. You might be surprised when you get a “yes” when you thought the deal was dead.
Highly Analytical Listeners listen for detailed facts and quantifiable data. They make decisions based on accurate, thorough information and focus on available resources and best practices for integration. They are not swayed by a sales rep’s charisma but review information for merit and application to the situation at hand without applying personal bias to the decision-making process. You can often recognize Analytical Listeners by their tendency to ask very specific, detailed questions while leaving emotions out of the mix. Sales professionals are often disrupted by buyers with a dominance in Analytical listening, as they often don’t have a need to build rapport prior to getting down to business. Make sure to bring metrics and data to your demo because if you share information you can’t back up with validated sources, you will likely lose credibility and the sale.
Conceptual Listeners tend to focus on “big picture” ideas and possibilities. Entrepreneurs and creative marketers frequently demonstrate this type of listening and are apt to get excited about how your product can help shape their organization’s future. You can often recognize Conceptual Listeners by their readiness to ideate about and explore any unique and far-reaching qualities your product brings to the table. Conceptual Listeners tend to do this with ease, as they experience brainstorming as an enjoyable end in itself. Even if they don’t see a fit for themselves as a buyer, they may continue to ideate for your benefit, suggesting ways you might improve your product or certain applications you hadn’t thought of.
Closing the Sale Using Listening Intelligence
While everyone wants to hear reasoning that will support their buying decision, deciding the type of reasoning that will be your primary focus is much easier when you understand whether you are engaging with a Connective, Reflective, Analytical, or Conceptual Listener.
Paying attention to the trends in prospects’ conversations provides valuable insight into the type of information they are listening for and what influences their buying criteria. If you’re ready to change the way your sales team interacts with prospects through listening, contact us to find out how we can help them gain a deeper understanding of Listening Intelligence through our innovative cognitive assessment, custom-tailored sales training, and one-of-a-kind Certified Practitioner Training Program. We can assist you in building better customer relationships through enriched communication and collaboration, leading to higher-yield deals and accelerated growth.
By Deb Calvert
The Power of Multiple Views
During an organization-wide restructuring and culture reset, Jen Vifian, People & Development Manager at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Hospital, was introduced to her ECHO Listening Profile™—the scientifically validated assessment of listening styles. She found that ECHO “helped me to minimize my biases and understanding others better, including how they process information.”
After ECHO, Jen received feedback from a leadership 360-degree assessment (the Leadership Practices Inventory®) and completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®). She described her experience this way:
“We started with ECHO, and it helped me understand myself and others in conversations. But it’s been even more impactful when I reflect on how these assessments intersect. I understand why certain behaviors are easier and more natural for me.”
When multiple assessments are used together, practitioners, facilitators, and coaches have an opportunity to promote deeper self-reflection, connect the dots, and help participants apply what’s been learned more comprehensively. There’s more “stickiness” to learning that’s layered, nuanced, and reinforced.
As Jen discovered, the ECHO Listening Profile is an excellent companion to MBTI. A typical MBTI workshop introduces personality type theory and verification of your type. Participants leave with a four-letter type and a general understanding of others’ types.
What fewer facilitators understand or tap into is MBTI’s next-level indicators about communication style. The “function pairs” in MBTI are the middle two letters (ST, SF, NF, or NT). These two-letter pairs indicate what type of information you prefer, how you communicate, and how you learn.
Here’s where ECHO can enhance MBTI. Function pairs offer insights about innate preferences. ECHO reveals the listening habits that have been formed over time. Together, natural tendencies and behavioral choices can be compared and considered.
Practitioners who specialize in a single instrument can deliver more value when layering on additional tools in some situations. Keep in mind, the work of comparing, seeking consistencies or inconsistencies, and drawing conclusions about parallels is best done by the individual. Asking quality questions to promote reflection is the key role of the practitioner.
This facilitated self-awareness is high value with any combination of tools.
For example, if an organization uses CliftonStrengths, prompting team members to look at their strengths alongside their listening habits will help them see what comes naturally, what’s been adaptive, and what they can leverage to build new habits.
For teams struggling with unproductive conflict, the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument® (TKI®) identifies individual preferences related to conflict responses. Adding ECHO gives these teams more to work with. They can pinpoint listening habits that may cause misunderstandings and conflict responses.
Working with a group that uses the suite of Everything DiSC® tools? The suite’s Agile EQ™ mindsets suggest modifications in listening and receiving information. ECHO is the missing link for translating mindsets into productive behaviors!
Coaching leaders? Any 360-degree assessment can be bolstered by deeper reflection and practical, behavioral insights. Take the Leadership Practices Inventory® (LPI®), for instance. It provides feedback about how often a leader displays key leadership behaviors, including “Actively listens to diverse points of view.” Jen’s report highlighted key behaviors she wished to display more frequently, and she determined that her ECHO Listening Profile would make some of these behaviors easier for her.
The Five Behaviors® Team Development instrument assesses groups on behaviors related to trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and results. Many of these behaviors pertain to communicating. ECHO accelerates improvement in these very behaviors!
Another area for alignment is found in the periodic employee engagement survey. Most instruments have a section related to managerial effectiveness. Within that section, typical questions address, for example, how the manager communicates. Low scores here spotlight a need for managers to understand their own (and others’) listening habits.
These examples illustrate the benefits of adding the ECHO Listening Profile to your existing line-ups of assessment tools. In some organizations, there may be a misunderstanding that precludes the use of ECHO. For example, because another tool has been used or is currently being used, some may feel that ECHO is not needed. But just the opposite is often true. The use of other tools may be a beacon—with another assessment in place, an organization may need ECHO to maximize its value and application. Where one assessment surfaces the issues, ECHO provides the next steps for solving those issues by offering simple, easily applied suggestions for common workplace communication challenges.
There are certainly other examples where pairing assessments produces deeper-level insights, practical solutions, and broader adoption in the workplace. What are some of your best strategies for coupling tools to support colleagues and clients?
Deb Calvert is President & Founder of People First Productivity Solutions. She is an executive coach, trainer, speaker, and best-selling author. Deb joined the ECHO Listening Intelligence Certified Practitioner community in 2018.
By Allison O'Brien
When I hear someone proclaim they are a good listener, I take a pause.
“We can’t anoint ourselves as great listeners,” explained Michael Reddington in a recent interview with Forbes. “Only those around us—our family, coworkers, friends, and acquaintances—can entrust us with the title.”
Picture someone in your life who you consider to be a good listener. Can you describe the specific behaviors they exhibit during a conversation? It’s likely you notice:
The people we consider to be good listeners leave us feeling heard. And at our core, humans long to feel heard and understood. But how can we know if the people we are listening to actually feel heard? To truly gauge the quality of our own listening, we have to ask our conversational partners for their honest assessment.
It’s a similar situation with leadership.
I am a bit wary of the person who proclaims themselves to be a great leader. Only those we lead, manage, or mentor can speak to the quality of our leadership. The reasons someone would consider you a great leader are similar to the items on the good listener list. They believe:
Countless studies prove the quality of the leader determines the level of engagement of the individual and the productivity of the team. Goodhire recently surveyed 3,000 full-time employees to understand this relationship. They found that 82% of employees surveyed said they would consider quitting their job because of poor leadership. In another study, 65% of employees would take a better manager over a pay raise. This was validated in a 2021 Gallup poll, where findings proved it takes a 20% pay raise to lure an employee away from a manager who truly engages them, yet almost nothing to poach a disengaged employee.
Many of us want to lead. But a title isn’t enough. We have to be someone others want to follow. A crucial contributing factor to the perception of stellar leadership is a leader’s ability to communicate effectively. In a recent Interact/Harris Poll, 91% of 1,000 employees surveyed think that their leaders lack communication skills. When leaders are perceived as “bad” listeners, it directly impacts the bottom line with low engagement, high turnover, and workplace failures, costing companies between $450 and $550 billion annually. This is precisely why the most impactful skill a leader can develop is their listening.
Here are 3 ways to improve your leadership listening:
The qualities of good listening and great leadership share the same underlying themes. The most influential, trusted leaders are great listeners. They are present and deeply attentive to their conversational partners. They are genuinely interested and appreciate dialogue inspired by various perspectives. They are patient, remain present, and leave others with the most fundamental need and desire met—to be heard and understood.
By Dana Dupuis
In the 1940’s researchers began to study what made therapists more or less successful with their patients. The outcome suggested that those who listened more and spoke less were more successful than those who did the opposite. It wasn’t until 1957 that Carl Rogers and Richard Farson capitalized on the findings and coined the term Active Listening in a short book that they published. Some 55 years later, Active Listening is still a well-known term, practiced far beyond the mental health setting where it began. Ask any organizational learning professional or take a peek at the training courses they are currently offering their employees, and chances are, if they are offering any sort of listening instruction as part of their communications training or leadership development, it is focused on Active Listening.
This singular focus is terribly outdated.
Modern brain science has revealed so much more about how we listen. Unfortunately, our training offerings have failed to keep up.
Active Listening involves making eye contact with the speaker, parroting back what they say and nodding in agreement in order to give the speaker the confidence that they were heard. Although these steps may help the listener stay focused, they don’t necessarily produce better listening.
We have learned that listening is about applying meaning to sound. It is where “hearing meets the brain,” according to Dr. Douglas Beck, former Vice President of Academic Sciences of hearing solutions provider, Oticon Inc.
In no way do the steps involved with Active Listening help the brain process sound. While there is some value in Active Listening, we have learned so much more about how to listen better since the 1950’s.
When it was confirmed that listening actually happens in the brain, the approach to improve our listening skills took a turn. When we recognize that no two brains are alike, this leads to the understanding that no two individuals make the same meaning of what they hear. Findings from researchers at the University of Switzerland at Zurich confirmed that both genetics and life experience create distinct brain anatomy, further explaining the complexities and differences of how we listen.
How do these differences impact our workplace relationships and how we get work done?
Imagine for a moment that four colleagues are attending an important strategy meeting. As the information is being shared, one of them is listening for the facts and figures of what to change and how it will make a difference to the bottom line. While listening to the discussion, the second colleague is wondering how these changes will affect the team’s workload. They are already overworked and any additional responsibilities will surely cause added stress. The third colleague is listening and considering how the changes in strategy might provide an opportunity for them personally, possibly enabling them to move up in the organization more quickly. The fourth colleague is listening to the suggested strategy changes and thinking about other possible changes that could be considered. This is one idea, but there are so many other possibilities.
Imagine if each person knew more about how listening happens. How could they ensure the strategy is explored more thoroughly and deeply understood by four unique brains? This type of team listening has huge implications, whether we are considering the strategic outcome of an executive team meeting or the daily interactions of an intact team in the middle of an organization.
How we listen and the varying nuances that create an individual's listening differences is the source and focus of a new type of listening training called Listening Intelligence. This approach draws from some of the original ideas from Active Listening and adds recent research and development discoveries, keeping in mind that listening is truly an individual sport!
Listening Intelligence enables individuals to quickly decipher what kind of information they listen to and for in conversations, meetings, or in their personal life. Just like the strategy meeting example above, there are four different listening styles in the Listening Intelligence model and each one of us has a unique listening preference. You can discover yours with a short, ten question assessment. The profile generated after completing the assessment will help you identify your natural listening tendencies and also reveal the kind of information you tend to miss.
Organizations that have introduced their employees to Listening Intelligence have benefitted from wide-ranging results:
Much has changed since the inception of Active Listening. Our ability to communicate is more sophisticated and the need to listen to understand has far higher stakes. It’s time to modernize our communication training and leadership development with Listening Intelligence.
By Allison O'Brien
Just last week I was talking to a colleague and brilliant thought partner who shares a passion for listening. She said, “I want to run something by you that I’ve been struggling with. It’s the word ‘curious’ when it comes to listening. Encouraging people to be “curious” in their listening isn’t sitting well with me lately and I would love your thoughts.”
I was hooked but couldn’t quite answer yet without knowing more. So, I asked, “Can you say more?”
The basic gist was, after years of using the word, encouraging folks to be “curious in listening” and to seek more information, ask questions before coming to a conclusion or sharing their perspective, it no longer felt right. The word “curious” had started conjuring up images of the mischievous little monkey, George, and thoughts of children asking “why?”
I had never thought of it that way, but I could see it, especially in the realm of teaching professionals to become more agile and intentional listeners. Listening is bigger than simply seeking answers.
Perhaps it’s just semantics, but it got me thinking that we need to be more specific and clarify our intended meaning if we want to use the word “curious” regarding listening. It also got me wondering what the true dictionary definition is and what comes to mind for others when they hear it. So, I took to the internet.
“What is the meaning of curious?” yielded outcomes I hadn’t expected,
like: “If you’re curious, you really want to know something — like the secret ingredient that makes these cookies so crunchy. You may wish you hadn’t been so curious when you find out it’s roasted crickets.”
My search certainly validated my colleague’s thoughts when using the word. Amongst Miriam Webster’s, Cambridge English Dictionary, Collins and Dictionary.com, the definition of curious was consistent and promising in that each onestarted with inquisitive and eager to learn. That lines up with our intention! However, the definitions also had some element of prying, being meddlesome or intrusive, which clearly does not align.
When we use any word, we use it from our own perspective and interpretation of its meaning, often without deep consideration of what it means to others. And now, with the image of a little monkey causing trouble, it was clear that I needed to reconsider specific language I’ve been using in the context of listening. For over a decade I’ve been encouraging people to “get curious,” when I really mean, “apply intentional effort to truly seek understanding.” It’s a very subtle but important distinction.
When we encourage people to seek other perspectives, to cue into what is important to others, especially in collaborative settings with high stakes outcomes, it requires an intrinsic desire to learn and takes intentional effort.
So how do we apply this new insight regarding listening to real-world business settings? As a sales director for example, when you coach salespeople to ask questions in order to listen to the answers, be more specific. Encourage them to seek intrinsic motivation to learn what’s important to their buyer. Then, speak directly to what they say versus steering the conversation towards the pitch they had prepared to deliver.
In a meeting setting, to harness the cognitive diversity of the group, commit to listening while withholding your viewpoint and silencing your opinions until all others have shared their different thoughts.
Listening with an innate desire to learn is curiosity on steroids. It’s not just about getting answers. It’s about the opportunity and potentiality for collective inspiration and innovation. So, next time you’re in a meeting, or any conversation for that matter, when you preface a question with “I’m curious…,” pause and ask yourself, “Am I truly inspired to learn?”