Over the past week we’ve been working on the prep work for several projects (it must be spring!) As a consequence time is at a premium, and there’s limited time for re-work. Weeks like this force us to exercise our “paying attention” muscles to the full extent of our capability. Fortunately as we’re in the observing and listening business, paying careful attention is a skill we work on. Here are a few key tactics you can use, that help will help you cut through noise and distraction when listening to colleagues, to pull together all the elements of your project without missing something important, or simply to remember all the points you want to make at your next big presentation:
- Aggregate – put together the pieces – when listening, this means seeking cues and context, not just words. With your project or presentation, it means keeping a file (paper, electronic, whatever works best for you) that has all the important information in one place, including a trail of changes that have been generated.
- Confirm – be sure that you understand correctly – by feeding back what you’ve heard, seen, or read and what you think it means.
- Retain – keep track of it all – when listening, it means taking notes, or making visual records. During projects, tracking software or other tools may be employed. For your presentation, notes fields or even old-school index cards will work.
- Summarize – weave all the threads together – use a visioning process to walk through what you have learned, what it means, and what action you’ll take as a result. In the listening example, feed back to your client or colleague what you think the result will be, and ask for their input. In the project context, make a process map or do a dress rehearsal, looking for gaps.
- Polish – fill in any holes you’ve discovered – ask probing questions, look up additional information, or seek clarification from your audience.
Most of all, although it seems counter-intuitive when you’re balancing many plates (and all of them are piled high) – take time. There’s no time like the present for that old adage, “measure twice, cut once”.
Focusing on the way forward,
Megann & Steve