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How listening deeply can transform you into a better leader, designer, researcher and team member



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It almost sounds silly to attend a talk on listening, because surely we know how to listen. But do we, really? I discovered during and after this talk that a lot of team issues can be resolved if only teams learn to develop empathy, and empathy can only be developed through listening deeply. The listening deeply method was first learnt through Indi Young's Advanced Training Series.

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How listening deeply can transform you into a better leader, designer, researcher and team member

  1. 1. listening deeply Illustration by How can transform you into a better designer, researcher, teammate and leader
  2. 2. Hello, I’m Pei Ling Illustration by
  3. 3. Photo by Luke Ellis-Craven on Unsplash When was the last time you felt heard?
  4. 4. 1. Ways we already listen 2. Why listen deeply? 3. Before you can listen deeply 4. How you can listen deeply 5. Ways listening deeply has helped me Illustration by
  5. 5. The ways we already listen
  6. 6. thinking of what we want to say in response, instead of truly listening - wonder why my manager invited me for a sudden meeting - think of 100 different scenarios and how to reply my manager - imagine worst case scenario when sharing performance review results and how to counter argument from my direct report
  7. 7. thinking of what we want to say in response - social banter to ease tension - make them laugh - make them feel better - impress them Source: Indi Young
  8. 8. relationship affects how you listen Adapted from Indi Young timid ... make assumptions instead of asking ... feels impolite to dig deeper ... might annoy the speaker ... speaker might have authority … past unpleasant experiences with the person … or looking down on a person more junior than we are, whether we admit it or not, causing us to shut down
  9. 9. Why listen deeply?
  10. 10. so that we can develop empathy
  11. 11. so that we can develop empathy empathy is so powerful. it creates a connection. it moves conversations. it can cause action. it lasts beyond the conversation. it builds relationship.
  12. 12. The cost of not listening deeply
  13. 13. ● we fill ourselves with assumptions and are led by them ● leaders breed an unconducive environment for trust to grow ● teams don’t have a safe space to be open ● team motivation and morale are affected, impacting work quality ● business performance and innovation can be highly impacted by lack of employee engagement … and more!
  14. 14. “Each person has spoken but failed to listen. It’s true that awareness of other people’s perspectives allows you to develop much stronger solutions together. Knowing someone’s perspective involves empathy. Empathy requires listening. It is empathy that will have a huge impact on how you work ... brings balance to your business.” —Indi Young— Author of Practical Empathy Co-founder of Adaptive Path
  15. 15. What is empathy?
  17. 17. EMPATHY IS ABOUT LISTENING... Source: Indi Young
  18. 18. Before you can listen deeply
  19. 19. here’s where you decide if you want to listen deeply it’s not going to be perfect on your first try. you don’t give up easily. it’s a habit you need to form. put aside your idea of what is right for the person, not because you are wrong, but because this attitude hinders you from listening deeply without cognition. stop talking about yourself. it’s about the other person. you listen so that you can understand.
  20. 20. How you can listen deeply
  21. 21. For UX or Design Researchers
  22. 22. Source: Indi Young
  23. 23. Source: Indi Young
  24. 24. Yup, ✓ no list of questions ✓ no probing ✓ no more “great! what about this...?” ✓ no one-upping the other person
  25. 25. three things to listen for Source: Indi Young
  26. 26. Surface Opinion Preference Explanation Statement of fact Generality/Generalization Depth Inner thinking/Reasoning Reactions Guiding principle Cognitive empathy cannot form here Source: Indi Young
  27. 27. inner thinking, reasoning - thought process, why’s and wherefores, decision-making and indecision reaction - emotions, feelings that causes an action, decision, or thought process guiding principle - rule, philosophy, or foundational instructions for making decisions Source: Indi Young
  28. 28. “I think that people who use social media at work are distracted because my team members are always scrolling through Instagram during our weekly catch up syncs.”
  29. 29. Take-home question Over the next few days, try to be more aware at how you listen (or don’t listen) in ‘user’ interviews. How often do you interrupt? How often do you shut down when the conversation isn’t according to plan? For Researchers
  30. 30. For all designers
  31. 31. Three rules in listening: Source: Indi Young 1. Pay rapt attention to the speaker 2. Get past the surface 3. Chase your assumptions
  32. 32. I asked a Product Manager I respected...
  33. 33. “What are some of your biggest challenges in communicating and collaborating with product designers?”
  34. 34. “Being practical vs ideal. Sometimes the idea or solution being explored by designers may be too far fetched based on the current team’s capability. Hence this may feel like inefficient use of time and effort to solve the immediate problem.” —Adi Alimin, Vice President, Platform Products Traveloka HQ
  35. 35. “A lot of designers talk about how PM's just shove requirements down to them, and are not so involved in the development process from the start. Would you be able to share your perspective as to why this happens and how this communication breakdown can improve from a PM's perspective?”
  36. 36. “I think this may be due to lack of regular communication between PM and designers. Without this, PMs cannot share what they are thinking beyond the current/active/ongoing project hence the designers may feel they are only approached when the project is about to start. In that case, the room for discussion or brainstorming may unfortunately already be too short hence the tension appears.” —Adi Alimin, Vice President, Platform Products Traveloka HQ
  37. 37. “As a PM yourself, what are some assumptions you make when communicating and collaborating with designers? Are there some skills or values you expect from them?”
  38. 38. “That designers come from specialized field while PMs are generalist. They are artist that would like to delight and help users with their works. On the other hand, PMs are very practical. I need to try to absorb designers’ thought, recalibrate my own thought and find the balance or win-win solution if there is a gap between us. Skills/values expected from designers: be open minded and iterative in finding the solution. Over the years, I’ve learnt to be more patient and trying to give more context of what I am trying to achieve or solve. By doing this, I feel Designers can understand the why better, hence empathise, and then give more ideas that may be really useful.” —Adi Alimin, Vice President, Platform Products Traveloka HQ
  39. 39. Take-home question In your next stakeholder listening session, instead of “what do you want” or “why do you need this”, try asking, “What’s been keeping you up at night? What’s been on your mind lately? How are you feeling about the project?” For Designers
  40. 40. For leaders
  41. 41. For leaders and team members
  42. 42. uses for listening session at work hiring interviews problem space research understand a co-worker’s perspective stakeholder consensus growth of your direct reports yearly employee evaluations Source: Indi Young growing empathy in your team
  43. 43. Take-home question When was the last time you felt heard? Recall why you felt so safe and heard and use it to share with your team lead if there is space to provide that feedback. For Team Members
  44. 44. Take-home question When was the last time you felt heard? Recall why you felt so safe and heard and apply the same principles to your direct reports. Learn to ask “Is there anything else you would like to talk about?” For Leaders
  45. 45. Ways listening deeply has helped me
  46. 46. 1. Understand client/project briefs better, when I put aside my idea of what is right 2. Work better and build better relationships with clients/stakeholders because they know I understand what they need 3. Look out for what people might miss out e.g. a possible innovation, a brewing problem, etc. 4. Develop understanding of the audience of an org 5. Highlight key areas that mentees struggle with by extracting reactions they had in their journals 6. Understand my mentees better so I can tailor the mentoring programme to their needs … and more!
  47. 47. Feeling heard is a gift. When was the last time you felt heard? Dig deeper for the reasons and pass this gift on. It will transform the way you work.
  48. 48. My references Mental Models Indi Young Practical Empathy Indi Young The Making of a Manager Julie Zhuo Difficult Conversations in a Week Martin Manser
  49. 49. Thank you for listening. Huge thanks to Indi Young for her methodology, mentoring and insights, and Tafida Negm for her super helpful feedback. More questions?