After about 2 weeks into coaching and getting to know each other, my tech lead finally approached me and asked, “I know we need to listen when someone is talking. But I am not able to. I am either ready with a solution for his problem, or ready to defend why I was not able to respond to her immediately. My mind is ready with answers”. “How do I listen?” “What is listening in Agile?” “What is different with listening in Agile projects than other projects?”
“Yes” I responded and we headed to Starbucks to get our lattes and have a chat. I asked “How do you listen to your children?” “No that is not the issue”, he responded. “I can’t listen at work”. I repeated “How do you listen to your children?”. “I know what they want when they cry. I know why they come to me. I know when they cannot finish their meal or homework”. “How did that happen?” I asked. “Well, I care about them. I pay attention. I know even before my child gets sick, that it is coming. I know when my child is going to fall. I know their sounds. The tone of their voice.”
Me: “Well then what is different here at work?” “Do you care less?” “What is your expectation?”
He: “No no no no. I care deeply”. “I want to help them”. “I want us to succeed.”
Me: “Then when should you listen?”
He: “All the time. By paying attention. By seeing the pattern of how the day emerges”. “I have to understand that the team is not different than my kids!”
YES! Listening does not happen during the daily huddle or just during a meeting. It happens all the time. These predetermined sessions are for “data sharing” or “data gathering” of what we have listened to between the two sessions. Changes that have happened. How to reorganize our thoughts. Enable listening to certain situations more than the others. We never have a conversation to justify a predetermined thought process or to validate a decision that we have already made. To me that is a form of cheating! That is a fake conversation. Why have a conversation if you have made the decision?
Listening happens when we are genuine. Show interest. Pay attention. And have an open mind. A closed mind will not want to listen. It doesn’t want to be proved wrong.