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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Two Ears, One Mouth

"The quality of our relationships is directly tied to the quality of our listening."

Recently I sat on the couch and listened for 15 minutes as my 3 year old son tried to explain to me why he didn't like his school. What a challenge, but what an exercise. It came down to he didn't like being left at school for the 20 minutes after other kids are taking naps and he is made to sit quietly and look at books. Solution - my wife picks him up right after lunch.

Coaching or mentoring is an activity that we are all involved in. If you are a leader, people come to you for help in how to do what they are doing better. Whether that is live life closer to God, run your business better, or have a closer relationship with your spouse (don't forget men, it is Valentine's Day and you should already have bought your card) you are coaching or mentoring them.

I had the opportunity recently to sit in on the Colorado Springs SCORE chapter for a number of reasons. During the meeting, Fred and Marti from A company called The Coaching Biz shared a great tool for coaching and mentoring through listening.
These are the notes from their talk:

Listen for what they want.
The steps are:

1. Prepare to Listen
a. Choose to be a listener (turn off the dialogue in your own head)
b. Take care of distractions
c. Or schedule a time to listen later

2. Listen fully
a. Listen until they are empty (no questions, interruptions, or comments)
b. Listen as if they are brilliant
c. Ask only "What do you want?" and "What else?"
d. Let them know you are listening with eye contact and nods.

3. Affirm the Speaker
a. Show gratitude that they are sharing
b. Verbally demonstrate that you understand their feelings, desires, ideas, reactions, and that they can have what they want.

4. Feedback What They Want
a. Turn their complaints into requests
b. Send back to them their desires and ideas
c. Ask, "Is that accurate?"
d. Repeat as needed

These are all great points, but I think the trap we (at least I) fall into with coaching and mentoring is that we (I) know it all. I know how to solve your problems and if you'll just take this pill and do these three steps all your problems are cured. But you (I) have to listen fully to everything... until they are empty, then guide them down the path to discover their own answer.

We've all read, heard, and probably memorized the quote, "People won't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Listening is a great way to show how much you care.