TAG Consulting

Create A Culture of Listening In Your Meetings

May 29, 2017

In our last post, we wrote about how thriving organizational culture creates a space where the innate human desire to belong is met.

A very large part of belonging is being listened to, having your words and thoughts and point of view honored. Unfortunately, all too few of our organizations have cultures like this. Too many employees feel like cogs in a machine, interchangeable parts, not honored for their individuality. Our teams pay lip service to “people are our greatest resource” but all too often the implicit message is “Please be quiet and just do as you’re told”.

Nothing saps morale and decreases engagement faster than being told to keep your head down and cease to think for yourself. Nothing saps loyalty faster than feeling like you don’t have a say or a stake.

Organizations with thriving culture listen to their members. Particularly in meetings.

The best meetings aren’t one way monologues. They are an honest, open, frank exchange of ideas. They allow for creative and constructive conflict and are often free-flowing.

In other words, they can be scary for senior leadership!

Here are four ways to create a culture of listening, particularly if you are the one leading the meeting.

  1. Allow for silence. It’s easy to feel that you have to rush to fill every silence, to have all the answers, to know just where to take the group next. Resist that feeling. Sometimes, it’s best to slow things down to make sure that everyone who wants to speak has the opportunity and that the group can absorb what has just been said.
  2. Respond with questions, not commentary or answers. Questions are immeasurably powerful and they honor the one being questioned IF their intent is not to interrogate or box in but rather to help the one being questioned hear more deeply what she is saying and communicate it more clearly to others.
  3. Protect the dissenting voices in the meeting. You’ve been there before. Someone says something that feels offbeat or threatening and the rest of the group responds with rustling papers, averted eye contact, jokes, or hostile silence. If you’re leading the meeting and a dissenting voice speaks, honor it as you would the voice that thoroughly agrees with you. Chances are, that dissenting voice has an element of truth the group needs to hear and honor. Most of all don’t let the dissenter be marginalized or shamed.
  4. Speak for yourself. Leaders of meetings don’t have to be experts or dictators, pushing the group towards a predetermined outcome. We know that members of organizations long to feel and believe that their leaders are trustworthy. Part of trust is honesty and authenticity. If the leader can also be a person – not just play a role – the rest of the group will gradually become more free to be themselves, which means that they will bring all of their gifts and talents and strengths to the team. This doesn’t mean that the leader is absolved of his or her responsibility to protect the mission above all else. That is a given. But the leader is not a mission automaton. She is a living, breathing person. It is OK – even necessary – to show this.

Every person in your organization has an innate desire to belong. If you create a culture characterized by active and receptive listening, your team will be drawn more deeply in to your mission and as a result your organization will be more productive and healthy.

10 Steps To Become A Dramatically Better Listener…Today

November 8, 2016


Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. That’s easy to say, but often hard to do. It’s all too common for us to half-listen while planning what we are going to say next, either to preserve our position and status or to win an argument.

In a climate of half-listening, unhealthy conflict flourishes. Actively listening dramatically reduces the risk of destructive conflict by making sure underlying values and beliefs are on the table and understood and that each party to the conversation feels heard and understood.

The principles of active listening are widely known, but in our work we see them violated over and over again! Let’s remind ourselves of them and, more importantly, remind ourselves to put them into practice!

1. Face the speaker.
2. Maintain eye contact, to the degree that everyone remains comfortable.
3. Minimize external distractions.
4. Respond appropriately to show that you understand.
5. Focus solely on what the speaker is saying.
6. Minimize  internal distractions – quiet your inner monologue.
7. Keep an open mind…and an open heart.
8. Avoid letting the speaker know how you handled a similar situation.
9. Even if the speaker is launching a complaint against you, wait until they finish to defend yourself.
10. Ask questions for clarification – but, once again, wait until the other speaker has finished speaking!

Great Leaders Are Great Listeners

August 7, 2016

ear hearing

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force” wrote Brenda Ueland. And we are drawn to great listeners; those people who “really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and want to sit in their radius as though it did us good.”

And most of the leaders we have most respected and desired to emulate are great listeners. The irony is that the further we go up the leadership ‘food chain’ the harder it can be to find time to listen actively. And the reality is that is the very moment it is most important.

If we don’t, our normal need to feel important – “Let me help you” – gets transformed into grandiosity – “I have all the answers”. This is the very opposite of great leadership.

With that in mind, we offer this list of ten practices of great listeners. Consider how many you practice now – and which ones you want to add to your leadership repertoire.

  1. Face the person speaking to you.
  2. Maintain eye contact – to the degree that it is focused yet comfortable – not creepy.
  3. Minimize external distractions.
  4. Respond appropriately, to show that you understand what you are hearing.
  5. Focus solely on what the speaker is saying – not what you are going to say next.
  6. Minimize internal distractions. What happens next doesn’t matter in the moment.
  7. Keep an open mind.
  8. Avoid telling the speaker how you handled a similar situation, unless he or she asks.
  9. Wait until they finish to defend yourself, if they are critical of you.
  10. Ask questions for clarification – but don’t interrupt the speaker’s train of thought.