The only one listening

“Am I the only one hearing what I’m hearing? Can’t be. They’ve been on this team longer, they know the players better than I. Let me listen more to what’s going on here.”
Angela had been brought into a large international team that was handling a multi-million-dollar project that had faltered badly and now was barreling toward a rescheduled launch date.
She wondered… is anyone talking directly with the South American team, not just in these large virtual team meetings? She knew the PM’s approach was to have the entire team in all the meetings, and the agenda was always packed. But when the South American team responded to questions, something was included with their answers that no one seemed to notice. In Angela’s mind, if they continued on that path, it would throw a huge wrench into the works. What to do?
Angela contacted a colleague she trusts in another country who speaks the language of the South American team and asked him to schedule a call for her with them. She asked him to be an objective voice and ears for her (he’s not on the project). He would ask them her questions in their language and encourage them to talk openly in their language about their progress and concerns. He would interpret for her as they talked.
You don’t have to be dealing with people in other countries whose primary language is different from yours to run into communication problems like this. As you’ve probably experienced, this kind of disconnect can happen whenever you’re working with people whose frame of reference is different from yours. It happens between departments, with clients, with families, on teams when people hesitate to speak up about their concerns. Or, they speak up and no one really listens. It also happens when some people dominate the discussions.
How do you work through it? Start by stating that you’d like to have open, safe dialog and real listening from everyone. Demonstrate with your communication that you mean it. Ask questions to flush out differences, including, “What are we NOT paying attention to that could become a problem?” Hear from every member of the team.
Absolutely key to open, safe dialog is letting others know you want to know their concerns and what’s caused them. This can be more productive when done 1:1 or with a small group. Be sure to give your full attention to what they’re saying.
When you’re not the only one really listening, the team can soar.

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