Need to Know: Active Listening

Sahar Kanani, PMP, explains how receiving information with intention can build trust and boost outcomes.

To sustain project progress and elevate outcomes in today’s fast-paced project environment, teams must avoid ambiguity. No surprise, then, that strong communication tops the list of must-have attributes of project professionals: 68 percent believe it’s the most critical power skill, according to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession® 2023 report. 

But achieving clarity isn’t all talk. Project professionals also need to apply active listening. That means making a dedicated effort to absorb, process and understand what others are truly saying.  

Whether it’s showing genuine engagement by maintaining eye contact with the speaker or echoing their thoughts to confirm comprehension, active listening can be a superpower, says Sahar Kanani, PMP, senior director, technical program management, MacroHealth, Vancouver. 

“I have been working to become a better listener my whole career—it’s something you need to practice daily,” she says. 

Kanani reveals three things you need to know about how active listening can deliver value to projects and teams: 

1. It’s a powerful way to fully engage.
I take notes while listening and use body language cues to acknowledge my engagement in the conversation. It’s also important to ask follow-up questions and seek re/confirmation by repeating the key points of what I am hearing. Doing this reduces ambiguity and misunderstandings that could lead to project missteps down the road. 

2. It’s a learning opportunity.
Active listening is one of the effective tools to collect key information and hear different—and sometimes unpopular—perspectives. The more data points and facts you possess as a project manager, the stronger you can lead your project and team. Having that knowledge and more facts can impact your project’s success—and improve outcomes. 

3. It forges bonds with all stakeholders.
Trust is the sole foundation of every relationship, both business and personal. Active listening enhances rapport and strengthens trust among team members and other stakeholders. When you feel heard, it shows that your opinion and ideas are also trusted. 

 

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