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How I Upgraded My Listening Skills to Create Greater Transformations Pt. 1

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been really well trained in listening with my rational mind. I was trained to use listening with an aim to figure out a problem or task I’m faced with, and then react with an action or solution with the intention to fix the problem. It may not fix it entirely but can otherwise make something objectionable go away. This training helped me perform well enough that I kept on being asked to step into leadership roles. These roles pushed me not only to hone, but to deepen those listening skills.

This led to the realization that there is a model of listening steps. I believe that the complexity we live in demands at least Listening 5.0. I'm covering level 1- 3 here and how I confined to move up to each level. If you'd like to learn about levels 4 & 5, click here. I started out at Listening 1.0, and I realized that I needed an upgrade in order to better serve myself and my clients.

Listening 1.0

At Listening 1.0, everything is seen as a problem that needs to be fixed. The intent is to find the right solution. Listening is really only at surface level, and basically removes emotion. This level of listening seeks to confirm what is already known, sometimes fitting new information into existing frameworks. It is excellent skill for many situations, especially those based in technical issues.

Yet, there are also lots of scenarios in which Listening 1.0 isn’t enough to solve those problems, especially when it comes to human thinking and behavior. When I answered questions some clients would ask I could tell that I hadn’t quite hit the mark in my answers, even though my answer was concise and targeted to solving their issue.

Listening 2.0

I found that my listening, and therefore my answer, stayed on the surface. Listening 1.0 wasnt working to create a true working solution for my clients. Here’s where I learned to listen more deeply for context – an upgrade to Listening 2.0.

Context tends to relate to a person’s professional position, gender, socio-economic/ethnic/religious backgrounds. There are a multitude of other factors that can inform the question or situation. Listening 2.0 was a breakthrough for me professionally.

Even so, there were still plenty of leadership situations in which my listening skills weren’t working to create transformations. It was a humbling recognition that I realized my coaching wasn’t helping my clients as much as I intended because I viewed their circumstances as a problem to be solved.

Listening 3.0

In this new level of Listening 3.0, I needed to develop an understanding of what the client’s struggle was about. Their struggles were informed by frames of reference and assumptions that were, until that point, mostly invisible to me (and the client). This shift began early on in my coaching career. I recognized that not only weren’t technical solutions enough, and context was important but not sufficient to help the client, but I also needed to listen and ask more deeply. Deep questions were necessary to surface the hidden beliefs and biases that kept the client stuck.

And this was great! Many of my clients, and my own goals, were well-served by this upgrade into the third level. Substantive progress was happening for many of my clients. Some, though, were still only making incremental progress, improvements only by a degree here and there, but nothing life-changing. What was missing?

This is where I bumped up against the need to evolve my skills to Listening 4.0. To read about listening levels 4 and 5, click here.

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