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Involve Your Team in Listening

I caught myself in the act of wishful listening.  Again.  The context of it escapes me, but it happens, especially when a topic I am personally very interested in is happening at the edge of my attention, something to do with travel bargains, incredible sales, or restaurant deals.  Most of us listen for what we want to hear.  I don’t think it’s intentional, rather, we each listen based more on familiarity and optimism.

There are times when really listening is critical and discussion-based research is one of those times.  There are some easy techniques to engage the team for focused listening and taking action.

1. Confirmation.  Confirm we are talking to the right customers.  You’ve recruited who you believe to be the right people, the target customer, but does everyone on the team agree?  Make sure everyone has the profiles of the participants before the discussion, and if you are conducting the discussion in a focus group facility, or a similar arrangement, design a point in the discussion to confirm with the team present, “Are these the right customers?”  It confirms they are and that the customer’s opinions matter.

2. Assignments.  Give the team assignments.  Ask your team members to identify what they heard that confirmed their beliefs, and what they heard that surprised them.    Post them collectively, or keep personal notes.

3. Debrief.  Debrief immediately.  Right after the guests have been thanked and the discussion concluded, debrief with the team, reviewing what was confirmed and what surprised them right then.  The team members will benefit from hearing each other’s perceptions.

Tip:  Set the action plan before you leave the room, even if the action is to investigate alternatives.

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