Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • How do I listen well?
  • How I deal with conflict?
  • What subtle behaviors should I use?

We talked recently about managerial communications, looking at the various ways you as a manager can deliver your message and the organization's messages to your team. There's more to talk about there, but we're going to tackle a different type of communication this time.

Mark's core skill is coaching managers and executives on their effectiveness. These efforts take many different forms, because different managers have different strengths and weaknesses. Some managers barely speak to their teams, are not personable, and are perceived (rightly) as not caring about their direct reports. They wonder why they can't seem to get anything done.

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Your overall point –

Your overall point – Communication builds Relationship is spot on. Many, including professional communicators, miss that.

All your tips for listening are outstanding from my experience. All very basic things to do, and yet most people don't do any... To add another ‘internal’ aspect to your 5 ‘external’ listening points - Turn down, or even better, stop your internal dialogue. Just like emailing and reading while listening, having two conversations at once means you miss both…

And a question I use often with my clients that might be useful for you, your clients and listeners on this topic that identifies some very core beliefs - What's the opposite of speaking?

I would expand on taking notes to

I would expand on taking notes to encourage that it be done on paper and not on any form of electronics. I've been guilty and have seen others taking notes on electronic devices and it is easy to get distracted when entering notes. You may want to change the font or create a list or fix the spelling, etc. all because you can when you should be listening and just taking notes. Notes can later be transcribed into the electronic device (pda, tablet pc, laptop, etc.) and it is much easier using pen/paper to capture the notes /

Mark/Mike, I've been listening to


I've been listening to the show since September '05, I have a notebook full of one-on-one's for my team and I'm consistently impressed with the shows. So I'm going to put my money where my mouth is.

Mark, write the book and consider this my pre-order. I'll commit to 5 personal copies plus 1 copy for my boss and 1 copy for every member on my team. Currently, that gets my total order to 12. Expect me to buy more after I actualy read it!

I'm hoping that if a few more people commit to books, you'll be able to put some numbers behind the occasional "write the book" posts and that this will push you finish. Of course, I'd like an autographed copy for being at the top of the list ;)

The beauty of the book, is that the podcasts become a living extension of the books much like David Allen or Tom Peter's seminars are living extensions of their books. Plus we can highlight, dog ear, excerpt and generally wear out a book, not to mention leave it lying around on our desk for others to pick up!

In your Kellog recruiting seminar (available on the web), you told people to ask for the offer. I followed that advice too and it worked. So here, I'm asking for the book.

Thanks for all the great advice.

Mark Polino, CPA

Michael- Thanks for the


Thanks for the input!

You'll love this: In America, the opposite of talking is not listening. It's "waiting to talk."

It's a privilege to serve you.


Lionel- BRAVO! If you've listened


BRAVO! If you've listened to our podcast on one on ones, you've heard us agree with you whole-heartedly. Taking notes on an electronic device is a detractor to relationships. One does so in the pursuit of personal preference at the expense of organizational effectiveness.

It's a privilege to serve you.


Mark- Uncle! I am working on my


Uncle! I am working on my book, and I promise you your pre-order is noted and will be fulfilled. And there is NO doubt you are right about the motivation you're providing. As someone dedicated to a life of service, I can't avoid the value proposition a book provides.

And, to tell you the truth, writing it has become fun because of Manager Tools.

It's a privilege to serve you,


Mark- Should have said - OF COURSE


Should have said - OF COURSE any copy you want will be personally inscribed. You rock dude.


I wonder how this communication becomes

I wonder how this communication becomes when we are involved in working on virtual teams, and multi-cultural communication and how to manage in these enviroments.

This podcasts are great, I havent been into this business podcasts and now I realize how much I have missed. :)

I just want to add about listening that

I just want to add about listening that the rules should work also for answering to the phone. I am always experiencing people who answer and in the same time is making something different (like typing or as a paradox sending an email to me !!).
So I will add to your rules especially for the phone: ask always if the responder can spend sometime with you (generally the answer is yes and the people start to listen) and mainly smile when you are answering: it is not visible but it is hearable and will change the communication flow.
I applied as screen saver your statement "listening skill is inversly related to intellect" and want to add: "Listen the sage and he will increase the knowledge".
Thank for suggestions

Bilbo- WOW! Great point that we


WOW! Great point that we touched on, but I wish now we would have spent more time on phone listening. The number of people who aren't listening on the phone is terrible...and I think many young managers are learning from more experienced mentors that somehow it's okay.

Thanks for the addition.


Alexandro- Communication like this,


Communication like this, when it includes cross-cultural and virtual teams, is MUCH MUCH MORE DIFFICULT. It's no less important - distance and culture don't make people and activity less valuable. But they make it more of a challenge.

We'll be addressing this/these issues in a future cast. GREAT point - thanks for bringing it up.

It's a privilege to serve you.


Guys, this podcast blew me away! This

Guys, this podcast blew me away! This is by far one of the easiest podcasts for every listener to relate to and is just packed full of tips. I want to thank you both for taking so much time to produce this show, it's such an excellent resource and I look forward to seeing the show pop up in Bloglines each week. I'm eager for the responding one now, really want to know about responding to information that I disagree with (even if I was nodding and smiling :)) Keep up the great work, a fan from the beginning, Andy.

Andy- Thanks! And hey - your book


Thanks! And hey - your book is sitting on my desk in Texas (I'm at Mike's), and will send Friday. Signed and everything! (Way late, I know. I suck! My apologies.)

Best wishes,


Great show. I believe that a lot of

Great show. I believe that a lot of these "basic" skills are not practiced as much as they should be. I know I am going to start practicing these more often.

I once heard a story of one of my friends who was sitting in a breakfast restaurant next to a table where the communication was flowing, juicy details were just coming out of the speaker's mouth. The topic of the discussion was a no-good man. So why was this conversation so good? The reason why the speaker kept going with the story was the listener was respondingly solely with "no!" and "uh-huh".

Thanks for putting a light on an important skill.

David- Glad you liked the show, and


Glad you liked the show, and thanks for the kind words. Mike and I caught ourselves engaging in all KINDS of poor listening skills this week... so don't feel like the Lone Ranger.

It's a privilege to serve you,


Mark, Not a problem about the book


Not a problem about the book being late you guys have got so much going on. I had assumed that I was filed away in your ticker file or possibly in your "Some Day/Maybe" list... ;-)


M&M - Success story. I almost feel

M&M -
Success story. I almost feel guilty about how easy this was. As a middle manager in a hospital organization, I am a member of many organizational committees which are, quite frankly, boring and stagnant. I sit on several committees chaired by the same administrator that happened to meet last week after I had listened to the microcommunications casts. This is a person in the organization that I have had little contact or relationship with outside of committee work. I decided that while I would probably get very little usable information out of the meeting (this is my typical expectation with these particular meetings), I would make a serious attempt at LISTENING to build my relationship with the speaker as my primary meeting objective. I followed your suggestions as well as I could: I turned my shoulders, nodded, smiled, took notes. Today I received a Thank you note from this administrator. It is the first feedback I have ever received from her, written or verbal, in two years of service on her committees, regarding my participation in these committees. Her note read in part, "Thank you so much for your service on the ...[blah-blah]... committees. Sometimes I think you're the only one paying attention!" I almost laugh just thinking about it! Thank you for yet another tool for my utility belt!

Craig, Now, that's a GREAT story!


Now, that's a GREAT story! Thanks for sharing.

Some folks wonder whether making an impression can really be that simple ... yes it can be! There are so many aspects of management that ARE more nuanced and difficult that it makes one wonder why anyone wouldn't practice those behaviors that have over and over again proven themselves effective. Whether it be management or systems development, there are repeatable "patterns" that prove themselves time after time. Frankly, I like those patterns; I'll use my creativity and energy to focus on more value-added activities.

Thanks for having enough trust to try something a bit out of the comfort zone! And thanks again for sharing ... you made Mark's and my day!


Hi- Just caught up to this show -


Just caught up to this show - excellent suggestions.

You commented on the fact that some people are uncomfortable looking others in the eyes. I used to be the same way, so I thought I'd share a technique that I learned recently:

You can't look a person into both eyes at the same time. Most people have a preference though, so think about which eye is easier for you look into, and focus on that one. Focusing on one eye will avoid the "jitter-look" that jumps back and forth and comes across as insecure. If you have a hard time even focusing on one eye, there's a trick that police use: fix on the point exactly *between* the eyes. The person at whom you are looking will not be able to tell the difference.

I came across this in an article about an actor who is teaching special education teachers how to respond to and manage conflict by using body language. I've started consciously using this technique in meetings, along with smiling, nodding etc., and noticed a difference almost immediately. Maybe this can help some others too.



Sibylle- Thanks for the suggestion.


Thanks for the suggestion. It's a technique I've also used successfully coaching many many executives who are uncomfortable with eye contact. Thanks for taking the time and posting!

It's a privilege...


Gentlemen, I listened to this segment

Gentlemen, I listened to this segment on my way to work this morning. I recognized that I am a dredful listener for several of the reasons you mention. I immediately changed that behavior and the results were stunning. My people literally responded to me on an entirely new plane today. Thank you!

MShelton- Well done! Glad the show


Well done! Glad the show had such immediate value!

What you experienced is what Mike and I shoot for - immediately "use-ability". So much of management training is so theoretical, or exhorting without substance.

Keep it up, and keep us posted.

It's a privielge (and a treat when we get notes like yours) to do this for you.


Just to give something back and maybe

Just to give something back and maybe complete the material a little bit more, I’d like to mention the use of “Paraphrasing” as well.

Paraphrasing is a potent and powerful technique. For example, if people in a meeting are making suggestions and you want to offer an alternative to their suggestions (in this first case you’re not necessarily disagreeing with them), you need to paraphrase their suggestions before offering your own suggestion. This way you are letting people know that you’ve heard and considered their thoughts first.

The second case is about when you are going to actually disagree. If you use this valuable tool and paraphrase before disagreeing, others won’t feel that you’ve already made up your mind, or you’ve misunderstood their idea.

Some other important points to remember:
Be sensitive to a “paraphrased question” or a “rhetorical question” even if there is no explicit disagreement following it. For example, “So you want to send in these charts?” Note that the disagreement may be there, but the speaker for one reason or another (tact, etc.) is not expressing it directly.

This reminds me of a TV series BBC had produced many years ago, called “Yes, Minister!” and later on “Yes, Prime Minister!” The stories were about constant conflicts between the elected Minister and his career government deputy. At one point the Minister, feeling frustrations of his reform measures being shot down one by one, decides to preface his new idea by “I have decided to make ...such and such changes” where his deputy responds with: “Sir, is this your final decision?!!”

PS: I copied my comments to the first part of this podcast because it seems to me the bulk of communication is responded to in part 1 of podcasts. Sorry for the duplication.

Hi Mike and Mark, Why am I back at a

Hi Mike and Mark,

Why am I back at a 2006 podcast? Well when I became a member my podcast service allowed me to re-subscribe to all the podcasts, so I am listening to them all again. I am still learning. So I have two things to add :-

In this podcast you mention the fact that when we are at a committee meeting, we should turn around and look at people not sitting at the table. I am on several committees, on of them being the school P&C. There is a lady, who always arrives early, and even though there are heaps of seats at the table to sit at she chooses to sit of the table in the far corner, normally out of my eye sight. No matter whether I twist or turn, I would not be able to see her. Once the meeting begins, from her position in the corner, she speaks loudly, and dominates the meeting. I spoke to my husband about this, and his comment was that she chooses that seat so she can control the meeting, if she was at the table, she would actually have less control of the meeting…I have pretty much given up on attending those meetings…

It is interesting what you said about listening to speakers. As a trainer of many years, I find that speakers frequently focus on me at the table. The one on one eye contact can almost become dizzying. I feel that I am letting down trainers or speakers across the world if I break that eye contact, so I fade from their eyes, to their forehead, to their nose, while continuing to look interested.