Listening Tour

Written by Cindy Leavitt

Three people smiling and standing in pumpkin patch holding gourds and pumpkinsAs part of my onboarding at Ohio State, I am embarking on a listening tour and getting to meet leaders from across campus. It is so much fun and inspiring to meet so many committed and talented people. This approach, outlined in The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins, is an excellent way to understand an organization, even if you are not new to it. 

The format for each interaction is generally the same. I ask whoever I am meeting with to describe their role and what their team does. I continue by asking them to discuss their strategic goals and what they are concerned about. Many people are surprised that I don’t want them to focus on technology needs, but talk more broadly about what they are trying to accomplish and understand the impact they are trying to make. I also try to minimize the time that I spend talking about me. I end each interview asking the following questions from the book. 

  1. What are the biggest challenges the organization is facing (or will face in the near future)? 

  1. Why is the organization facing (or going to face) these challenges? 

  1. What are the most promising unexploited opportunities for growth? 

  1. What would need to happen for the organization to exploit the potential of these opportunities? 

  1. If you were me, what would you focus attention on? 

I am only partially through the listening tour, but the insights that I have already gained are really helpful and the interactions are energizing. I have appreciated the graciousness of individuals who are open to being my friend in addition to my colleague as I adjust to a new job and home. I have also loved some unexpected perks, like the squash and honey from my tour of the Waterman Farm Complex. 

When is the last time that your primary focus in a meeting was to listen and learn?