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Are you *really* listening?
13 December 2007, by , in Data Management, No comments

Part of my job is to conduct interviews of database users. Another part of my job is to sit in with my client on interviews being conducted by vendors when they are gathering user requirements for a new system. One thing that has struck me in these meetings is that not many people have very good listening skills.

What I have observed is when two parties are talking, too often the party that is not talking is trying to anticipate what the other party is saying, rather than really listening to hear what is being said. One technique I use is to try to re-phrase what the speaker has just said, in my own words, to make sure I've heard what they're saying. (I believe it's referred to as reflective listening.) For example:

Client: When we go to meetings, we have several people checking in attendees. They all work off of different sheets. When we come back to the office after the meeting, it's very difficult to mark all of those who attended because there are five or six different sign-in sheets.

Me: So you're saying what you need is the ability to easily mark who has attended a given meeting in the system, after the meeting has finished. Is that correct?

If I'm right, the client says so. If I'm not, they correct me. But either way, we're getting closer to what they want, rather than me trying to guess at what they want.

So whether it's a meeting about your database, a staffing issue, or trying to decide what to do for dinner, practice reflective listening. You'll be amazed at how much easier conversations become when one side listens while the other side talks.

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

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Jack Chiasson, CMP Executive Director
National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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