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ARE YOU HARD OF HEARING? It Impacts Your Coaching

by David Brock on November 16th, 2010

We spend lots of time and money refining our communications styles, learning how to connect with and communicate more effectively with our customers.  There are powerful assessment tools that let us understand the communications styles of our people.  We may even understand our own communication style, using many of the same tools.  However, it’s odd, but it seems when we get into conversations with our own people, even with all this knowledge and training, our inability to hear and really listen impacts our ability to coach.

As I’ve mentioned in this series, effective coaching is a conversation, it’s a dialog about performance and professional development.  Too often, the focus is, “Are they getting it, do they hear what I am saying, do they get my coaching?”  We obsess with the abilities of our people to listen and understand what we are saying.  Yet we forget about ourselves and whether we are truly hearing what our people are telling us.  If we are not hearing what is intended,  or worse yet, if we aren’t listening, our coaching will not be effective.  It may, in fact, be completely wrong.

“Hearing” is a funny thing.  We are all wired differently.  I could be listening closely to a conversation and interpret what is being said completely differently than someone else listening to the same conversation “hears.”  We could both be highly trained in listening, using the best active listening skills, observing body language, observing and paying attention to the words someone is saying; yet each of us could have entirely different interpretations.  The reason is each of us is “wired” to hear and respond differently.  In listening, we apply our own filters, processing, and experience base, and often react in appropriately.  Our reactions are driven by our interpretation and not by what is being said.

This is the critical difficulty in effective coaching.  Imagine that we are hearing and interpreting things based on our own filters and “wiring,” and the person we are coaching is hearing and interpreting things based on their filters and “wiring.”  It’s no wonder so much coaching is ineffective—there’s tremendous room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding.  It’s absolutely natural in all communications, we each apply our own filters.  We tend to be very attentive to making sure what we say is being heard—after all we have a tremendous vested interest in our own words.  We tend to be less attentive to the fact that we are applying our own filters to what we are hearing.

To be effective as coaches, we not only have to understand how our people hear and interpret things—tuning what we say so they can hear as we intended it.  We also have to watch ourselves to make sure we are hearing and interpreting what is being communicated the way it was intended.

The same assessment tools we use to understand how our people communicate—what their style is, how our customers communicate, can be very powerful in helping us understand how we “hear,” and what we might watch for in how we are hearing.  Try them!

To be a great coach, make sure you aren’t HARD OF HEARING.

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2 Comments
  1. I have always found the 2 questions “What do you mean by that?” and “Why do you think so?” to be the two most important questions you can ask an employee.

    If they are doing something that you judge wrong, don’t just run them over, ask “Why?”. If they give you a reason, keep asking, and learning about their reasons. When they have explained it and you understand, you can start explaining how you would do.

    That way you won’t correct something that already works as well (or better) and when you do correct your employees will listen and trust you a lot more.

    //Daniel

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