If you’ve never had an awkward exchange with any of your change management clients, you’re fortunate. 

But trust us. It will just be a matter of time ‘til they come up.

Challenging change manager client conversations are frequent and awkward. We have to go into this one remembering that change can be complex, not just for employees but the leaders coordinating the change can struggle too. 

66% of managers struggle to communicate with their employees. Why is that relevant to change managers? Because they have to communicate with leaders, and if leaders have poor communication skills, that will also reflect on change manager relationships.

We’re all human, and despite different communication styles and personalities, there are standard ways to approach more emotionally intense dialogues with clients. 

Oscar Trimboli, author of Deep Listening: Impact Beyond Words, offers today’s best approach. The five levels of deep listening, listening to yourself, content, context, the unsaid, and the meaning can transform change management client conversations. 

But how do you master this technique? Listen! Be calm, and scroll down to see each step with an explanation of how it works. 

How to Use the Five Steps of Deep Listening

Model by Oscar Trimboli

Listening is essential to everyday interactions, yet we never receive lessons on how to do it in school as we develop. This lack of standardized skills in meaningful listening can lead to awkward conversations for change managers. 

However, Oscar Trimboli’s Five Levels Of Listening Model offers a helpful approach to understanding one’s and others’ intentions and communication. 

Using it can help you transform client interactions from awkwardness and hostility to collaboration and amicable progress. 

Remember that every step in the model is foundational, meaning that you must begin at Step 1 and master it before progressing to the next step. 

Please note that each step comes with a quote from Oscar Timboli to reinforce the point straight from the source of the knowledge. 

Step 1: Listen to yourself

“Without truly connecting and listening to what’s going on inside our own head, we are unable to be fully present with others.”

Firstly, listen to yourself. Consider your own thoughts about what the person opposite you is saying. 

How do you feel about what they are saying? What does their dialogue mean to you? Engaging with your own thoughts teaches you to think about the thoughts of others and helps you check-in with yourself about your opinions on what you hear from others, allowing you to take time to consider the best response. 

According to Oscar in his CMR podcast episode, 86% of people remain in this first stage

Step 2: Listen to the content

“The alignment between what someone is saying and how they’re saying it.”

What does someone appear to be saying? What words are they using? It’s essential to ask yourself these questions when listening to someone because they help you show that you are listening to every word you hear. They can also help you respond authentically, which increases the quality of the communication and enhances relationships. 

Step 3: Listen to the context

“Exploring the patterns in their words and understanding their backstory as well as the backstory to the conversation.”

In this stage you begin to listen for specific things in the conversation. You move from trying to understand what’s said and how it might apply to you to how you can use it to organizational contexts and where the motivation for the words comes from. 

Step 4: Listen to the unsaid words

“Regularly exploring the gap between what they are thinking and what they said.”

By the fourth stage, you are an adept deep listener. Your skills will allow you to listen to the words and see beyond them to those the speaker didn’t say. Doing so can help you understand the motivations behind what someone is saying and meet their needs more effectively, strengthening relationships and avoiding hostility. 

Step 5: Listen to the meaning

“Listening at the level of meaning helps make sense of the discussion and informs a wide range of perspectives and possibilities going forward.”

Step five is the highest level of deep listening. When you reach this stage, you can listen deeply to the meaning of everything said to you, including the content, context, and the spaces between words. 

When you can read the meaning behind speech, you can penetrate words to understand what someone is genuinely trying to communicate. At this level, you may still experience challenging conversations. Still, it should be able to reduce hostility quickly as you see a person’s needs and meet them for positive outcomes for both parties. 

Examples of conversations change managers need to transform

It can be difficult to know what most change managers would consider a challenging conversation. See the examples below to identify which conversations can generally be challenging. 

The Deep Listening Model is useful for every exchange but can be especially if you often come across the below scenarios. The Model can reduce incidences of the below examples by helping you listen to what your client is really communicating and meeting their needs. 

  • Errors occur.
  • Client dissatisfaction with work or deliverables.
  • Exceeding budget or appearing likely to do so.
  • Unable to meet client’s desired timeframe for a task.
  • A client requests additional tasks without recognizing the impact on budget and/or timeline.

Remember that change can be a challenge for leaders too

Leaders are people too, with their own change challenges to navigate.

These challenges can involve adapting to new strategies, processes, or team dynamics. All of these require flexibility and resilience that some leaders do not have. 

Managing resistance from team members, maintaining morale amidst uncertainty, and balancing organizational goals with individual concerns are key tasks. 

Following the five steps of the Active Listening Model can enhance effective communication, transparent decision-making. These skills can help you support leaders to foster a culture of adaptability and help them navigate change successfully while inspiring confidence and trust among their teams. 

If you’re a change coach who’s still unsure about your coaching skills for leaders after reading this article, join the CMR Coach Change skills course starting soon.

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