Listen to understand

Did you realize that the words LISTEN and SILENT contain the very same letters?

I see this situation quite a lot: stakeholders express their feedback and ideas in a review meeting and development team members answer and explain and defend their implementation. At the end of the meeting everybody is frustrated:

  • the stakeholders feel insecure if their input was taken seriously, if their time invested was worth spending it
  • the developers feel criticised
  • the Product Owner is somewhere in between

Sounds familiar?
Sounds like an acceptance-meeting? Yes, it does. And it should not.

At some point in our lives we learn to listen so that we can give answers. (Was it at school?)
But giving proper answers requires more than listening: it requires understanding, it requires sense-making, perhaps it requires alignment, perhaps some discussion, so that we can give good answers. And this can not be done in a review meeting.

When was the last time you really listened, to your stakeholder, your team member, your partner?

Try to listen to understand. No “no”. No “but”. No comment, explanation, or defence, just listen.
Try it out. And be silent.