There are many things new leaders can do to instill faith in and build trust amongst their teams, with one of the most important being implementing listening tours. Listening tours provide new leaders with the opportunity to make their teammates feel heard. Not only that, but these listening tours also help build trust and provide clarity. 

In this article, we’ll dive into the benefits of conducting listening tours, as well as ways in which you can conduct successful listening tours that benefit your teammates and your organization. 

What is a listening tour?

A listening tour is a scheduled meeting or block of time that can be used by teammates or management to garner a deeper understanding of their teams thoughts. This process is used to get interpretations, insights, and perceptions from a variety of stakeholders in an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of the business. Listening tours also present a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of future possibilities for the business by opening everyone’s minds to greater possibilities. It is also commonly used by new managers to better understand their new team members and look for areas of improvement.

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Benefits of listening tours and why they’re important

1  Set expectations of how your team culture will evolve

It can be difficult to inspire your team or get them to buy into a long-term mission if they aren’t clear on your end goal. Listening tours provide everybody with the opportunity to envision what long-term success looks like for the organization, and these meetings provide you with the opportunity to set clean expectations moving forward. 

Culture is a fundamental part of every company, especially when it comes to employee retention, meaning it’s imperative that you as a manager or leader make your team aware of how your company culture will evolve.

2  Help better understand how the team currently works

It can be difficult to get a handle on how the interworking of your team really plays out on a day-to-day basis. Listening tours are important because they provide everybody with an opportunity to understand the team and how every team member contributes to the team and organization as a whole. 

3 Spark a deeper connection between contributors and key stakeholders  

Teammates don’t often have the opportunity to put themselves in each other’s shoes. Listening tours provide teammates with a unique opportunity to really be able to understand what everyone’s day-to-day looks like. When you begin to empathize with those around you, you’re able to create a deeper connection with your teammates. 

 4 Build trust amongst employees, managers, and key stakeholders 

Building trust within organizations can be hard, especially in manager-employee relationships. Creating an open dialogue and fostering a safe environment where everyone can listen and share their feedback without judgment is a great way to build working relationships that are founded on trust and transparency.

7 ways to conduct a successful listening tour

1 State your plan 

Before you can start a new initiative of any kind, you’ll first need to convey your plan to your entire team. You won’t be able to implement an effective listening tour if you don’t make your teammates aware of your intent; this should be done before the listening tour starts so everyone has the opportunity to get on board with the concept and contribute equally to the plan. Stating your intentions will ensure the process is transparent and one that everyone feels inclined to participate in. 

2 Reserve any judgment

The intent of any listening tour should be to listen, so it’s imperative that you leave any judgment at the door. Before starting, make everyone aware that listening tours are no place for judgment. Everyone should feel comfortable and confident sharing their perceptions, opinions, insights, and interpretations during a listening tour. It’s also important to not make any promises or decisions during this time. This time should be reserved strictly for listening and learning.  

3 Choose your meeting format

Which format do you believe would translate best for a listening tour? To properly structure your meeting and create a meeting agenda you’ll be able to follow, you’ll need to choose your meeting format. Do you need an hour-long meeting? Do you want it to be more casual and take place over coffee? It’s important to take your teammates’ preferences into consideration when determining which meeting format works best for your team. 

4 Meet on a one-on-one basis

Sharing honest opinions or unique perceptions during a team meeting can be intimidating, especially if you feel as though you’ll be judged or like your perception may vary from your teammates’. To combat these feelings, simply prioritize meeting with your teammates on a one-on-one basis. This will make it easier for them to convey their honest thoughts, while simultaneously building trust. 

5 Create a safe space

Psychological safety is imperative, and these types of meetings will not be productive or effective if you haven’t created a safe space that makes everyone feel comfortable and at ease. Feeling comfortable and secure at work is a necessity for employees. Without these feelings of comfort, employees can’t perform to the best of their abilities or be effective within their positions.  

6 Document themes

It’s extremely important to take note of  recurring topics of discussion. Are you noticing a common theme amongst the feedback you’re receiving? If so, it probably means this is something you need to act on immediately. If multiple employees are raising the same concern, the concern should be addressed sooner rather than later.  

7 Share an overview

This is a great tip to take into consideration if you want to ensure that all your teammates are on the same page. If you’re gathering these insights on a one-on-one basis, you may want to consider consolidating all the information in a shared document. You can keep these insights anonymous so no one feels singled out or judged. What’s most important is ensuring that everyone has equal access to all information so everyone can listen to and learn from others. 

Questions to ask during a listening tour

1.     How do you like to receive feedback?

2.     What discourages you in the workplace?

3.     What motivates you to do your best work?  

4.     What things should your team definitely continue, stop, and start? 

5.     Do you feel comfortable providing your teammates with feedback? 

6.     What can we change about our current processes to improve outcomes?

7.     What was the most impactful project that you worked on in the last year? 

8.     What would you change in the next 90 days if you had the power to change anything? 

What to do with what you learn

1 Act on the responses received

Nothing is worse than initiating feedback and failing to act. If your teammates take the time to provide you with concrete feedback on concerns, you need to demonstrate your good faith by addressing their concerns and creating a game plan to reach a positive outcome. If your teammates take the time to respond to your queries and you fail to act on them, they may be less inclined to participate in future listening tours. 

2 Wrap up conversations by restating your teammates’ expectations 

Make it clear that you’ve listened to and heard your teammates’ points by restating their expectations. At the end of your conversation, you can demonstrate that your team has been heard by stating their points and telling them that you’ve taken note. It’s important to make your teammates  feel heard every step of the way. 

3 Make a plan of action for issues that were raised by multiple team members

Now that you’ve conducted a thorough listening tour, it’s time to get to work! As the initiator, you’re responsible for creating an action plan. When creating an action plan, make sure you’ve taken everyone’s points into consideration. It’s important to create an action plan that fairly incorporates everyone’s feedback. 

Run a successful listening tour 

Conducting successful listening tours can be difficult, especially for new leaders. It’s clear that the benefits of listening tours are significant and with these tips, tricks, and best practices, you’ll be able to host successful listening tours that leave your teammates feeling heard, understood, and inspired for the future.