At the end of this past year I was involved with a couple of assessments for an organization and a church. Let me start off by saying that I love doing assessments. You get to meet a great microcosm of the organization, hear their stories, interact with them, and feel their passion. And let me just clarify, not all organizations get an assessment done just because they feel they are “sick” but many so that they know what they need to focus on to improve.
One of the hard parts about doing an assessment is the potential to hear the same story numerous times. Every person or group has a different story to tell, but often, if your not truly listening, the story can feel the same as the ones before it. That’s exactly what happened to me. After a few hours of interviews, we started our last one for the day. After the introductions and asking our beginning questions, all of a sudden, I checked out. I thought to myself, “I’ve heard this, I think I got a pretty good handle on this.” After a few seconds I virtually slapped myself. Pay attention! I sat up, made myself uncomfortable in my seat so that I couldn’t get too comfortable and let my mind wander, wrote a couple of notes on my pad of paper to clear my mind, and listened as if it were the first time hearing the information.
You know what happened? I learned and caught new information that hadn’t been brought up yet in the course of my other interviews. It also had a big impact on the final outcome of the report as well.
We’re faced with this in various situations all the time. We experience this when we’re listening to our wife talk about her day, or when our co-worker is talking during the meeting with another update on their project, or when our customer is complaining on Twitter. We hear the same stories over and over, but each time, if we’re willing, there will be new information in that story. There will be another way to ingest that story. There can be a turning moment of understanding.
How do you listen like it’s your first time?