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Listen Up!

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All good project leaders should have a good relationship with their people and project stakeholders, but sometimes cultural differences make it a little harder.
    In Spain, for example, people look in the face of the other person when speaking, while in some Asian countries they consider it offensive to look into the face or eyes of the person you are talking to all the time.
    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 and understand and influence your team members and project stakeholders.
    Listening is hard work. Unlike hearing, it demands total concentration. It is an active search for meaning, while hearing is passive. Try to listen with these questions in mind:
  • What's the speaker saying?
  • What does it mean?
  • How does it relate to what was said before?
  • What point is the speaker trying to make?
  • How can I use the information the speaker is giving me?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Am I getting the whole story?
  • Are the points being supported?
  • What does this relate to what I already I know?
I strongly believe project managers must listen at three levels in cross-cultural exchanges:
  1. Pay attention to the person and the message.
  2. Create rapport.
  3. Share meaning.
    Listen better to your project stakeholders and you will learn more about your project.


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1 Comment

A key trait which people lack (lack of training/education) esp. in the geographies I am from - the art of listening - does cause lots of misunderstandings.
Esp. when in the role of a PM, it becomes a major aspect that if practiced well, can give the PM, several important cues of what's on someone's mind.
Just as body language can indicate what a person really means to say, listening to intonations (when interacting with someone from the same culture) can give away some indications of the person's state of mind.

I have personally noticed that most often, higher up management has never listened but only heard people speak and and then 'reacted' just to those some of the words thereby making team members feel unheard/unrespected.

If you are good at listening, esp. across cultures, one can figure out even if the other individual is not comfortable in English what is (s)he actually trying to say.

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