The nature of listening
I went along to a PM Forum event where Emma Massingham of Emma Massingham Consulting (@EmcThinking) spoke about client listening programmes. As I listened to Emma’s experience and advice, it struck me that her recommended approach chimed perfectly with TetraMap’s four Elements.
For those yet to come across TetraMap, it is a learning model rooted in nature, which accelerates an understanding of self and others. It focuses on what influences our behaviours and how we can flex to achieve our desired outcomes.
At the heart of TetraMap is this belief: strength lies in valuing differences. The Elements TetraMap uses are: Earth, Air, Water and Fire. Every Element has a part to play and every individual has all four Elements.
- Earth like a mountain is firm – action and outcomes
- Air like the wind is clear – process and detail
- Water like a lake is calm – people and collaboration
- Fire like the sun is bright – ideas and creativity
How, then, do these four Elements apply to client listening and to building stronger client relationships?
Starting with internal buy-in, tip one is to ensure that client and (as in Emma’s case, professional services firms) partner understand why the listening exercise is important and that both want to participate. The goal (Earth) is to generate actions that lead to outcomes like a closer working relationship and more sales opportunities.
To be effective, client listening needs a process (Air). Emma suggested creating a shared agenda and preparing questions and relevant documents.
During the conversation, whether face-to-face or by telephone, tip three is to listen more than you speak (Water). There’s a wonderful expression: You have two ears and one mouth and it’s best to use them in that proportion.
Listening, asking questions and playing back responses is essential to agreeing actions and to creating a shared vision of the future relationship (Fire).
Gathering client feedback and insights cements a relationship between lawyer and client, or service provider and customer. It also provides the foundations for future innovations: new products and services driven by client or customer need.
This is just one application of TetraMap. It can also be used for anything: as a framework for running meetings, improving presentations, giving you a dose of self-awareness and even assuaging parental guilt. It’s simple, quick and practical.