Listen and Learn

By Bucero, Alfonso | PM Network, July 2006 | Go to article overview

Listen and Learn


Bucero, Alfonso, PM Network


All good project leaders should listen to their people, but pay attention to cultural differences.

If you want to foster involvement among your team members, you have to listen to them constantly. Listening is such a routine project activity that few people think of developing the skill. Yet when you know how to really listen, you increase your ability to acquire and retain knowledge. Listening also helps you understand and influence your team members and project stakeholders.

"In the first stages of a project manager's career, communication in general and listening in particular is very low priority," says Javier Oteo from UNISYS in Spain. "As the project manager grows, then communication skills and listening become critical."

Remco Meisner from Getronics in the Netherlands agrees. "Obviously you will need to know what customers consider important, what the project team has accomplished so far and where the flaws are. For all that, you need to be able to listen well."

Listening effectively is dependent on the culture, though. As Blaise Pascal said in his classic book of essays Pensées, "There are truths on this side of Pyrenees, which are falsehoods on the other." Listening means different things to different people. It can even mean different things to the same person in different situations.

I have observed various types of listening behaviors among European project professionals:

* Hearing: They hear your comments but they're not processing the message.

* Information gathering: They're collecting information-but not listening.

* Cynical listening: They nod and seem to be listening to you, but they're really not.

* Offensive listening: They're not focused on what you're saying, they don't look at you or they're doing other things.

* Polite listening: They take care to mind their manners.

* Active listening: They immediately validate that they understand your message.

Listening is hard work. …

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