Articles & Publications

By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: March 27, 2014

woman-mapWhen driving to a new location, we often stop at a gas station to ask for directions, use our GPS or a handy paper map to navigate unfamiliar territory. If we get lost, we need only refer back to the map to find our way.

Listening can be approached the same way.

Navigational Listening”  is the style of listening that makes us better executives. It accepts that listening is not an end in itself but part of a process that ends in a decision, strategy or change in behavior or viewpoint.

Salespeople listen for customer concerns. Lawyers listen for their opponent’s faulty logic. Psychiatrists listen for unconscious motivations. Training has taught all of them not to listen at face value, and to use the time lag between their hearing and subsequent speaking to properly evaluate what is being said. At the same time, they don’t dismiss their emotional response to the speaker, their “feel” for the situation, or their hunch of what might happen next.

A framework telling them how to influence a person’s thinking from Point A to Point B also guides these professionals.

In sales, the marketing rep wants to influence a customer with no interest to one ready to buy. The lawyer tries to influence the jury to his or her point of view. The psychiatrist works to influence the patient toward new insights about personal behavior, motivations or a view of the world.

In business, executives need to focus on the interpersonal influencing process. Who is being influenced to move him from Point A to Point B and why? Where is this conversation going? To what ideas, beliefs and behaviors is this person most committed in his life? Which of these ideas, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors need to be influenced for the person to be more effective on the job?

What do I know about this individual that will help me better understand her and what is being said? Are her problems or concerns such that we can effect real changes, or are they out of reach in the business context?

The effective manager examines the way s/he answers the employee to ensure maximum hearing or listening. Will the employee listen better if the answers are short and sweet, or will listening improve with more background information? What kind of information will be helpful? What kind of questions will open thinking and facilitate connections that lead to greater insights and wisdom along the way?

In practicing navigational listening, managers listen carefully to the employee’s answers—to phrasing, context and words used to get clues to the real meanings behind their words. Navigational listening expands the ability for both the manager and the employee to emerge smarter, more connected and more conversationally intelligent by opening up new insights that go beyond the obvious—insights that reveal true wisdom.


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