4 tips to Listening in the Huddle


Twenty-One! Twenty-one!! Ok here we go: Explode to I-Buster right, lucy trade, 161 Y-shallow cross half back Ralfie, check, I-buster right, middle 27 bob-scissors on two…

Imagine you are in the huddle, it’s 3rd and goal with four seconds left to go in a tied playoff game and your team is down five points… Do you know what to do if the defense lines up in cover 1 but rolls to a cover 2 zone? What if they stay in Man? What if the Mike Linebacker blitzes? What if the strong safety blitzes? Do either of these plays have a built in “hot” route? – As you approach the line of scrimage and get into your stance you hear the quarterback make an “Omaha” call, what do you do now? – If you were an NFL tight-end, you would be required to process all of the previous information in less than six seconds. As an added variable, your team is the visitor and the home crowd is making so much noise you can actually feel the vibrations ringing in your helmet from the crowd.

– Plays called by NFL quarterbacks can be up to twenty words long. So as you might guess, it’s important to listen in the huddle. In business, like football, listening is a skill that requires some cognizant adherence in order to be great. We sometimes forget to listen or do a poor job of listening and the resulting outcome is undesirable. In comparison, if we would have done an exceptional job of listening, not only would our outcome have been favorable, but our ability to lead would be exemplified by creating an opportunity to help others understand. When you are in a huddle with time running off the game-clock you don’t have the luxury of asking questions or requesting the quarterback to recap what he just said; you do however, have to be prepared number one, and number two, you have to listen and have total concentration and focus in this situation.

Listening is a skill that separates many of us, and ultimately makes a leader special. As a manager, there are few actions you can demonstrate to your employees that will impact them personally more than being proactive in helping them accomplish their personal goals. Not only will your emplyees be impressed that you are willing to help them, but recalling the conversation in which you discussed goals with an employee will also show them you care. And if you show your employees that you care about them… Assuming you hired morally sound people, you can expect them to give you the same level of respect and do the extra little things it takes to be great. — At the end of the day, listening is about caring. If you care about people, you will listen to them and value what they have to say.

However, if you have a hard time paying attention and have a touch of Attention Deficeit Disorder like I do, a few tips I picked up along the way that might help you out include:

1) Make Eye Contact-
Looking at the person talking while simultaneously reading their lips will help you retain information. Using your sense of sight and hearing together will also help improve information retention. (especially if you are playing on the road)

2) Recap confusing or uncertain lessons-
Restating what someone tells you allows you to process the information, restate the information in your own words, and open the dialogue back up in case you missed an element of what you were told. Also, hearing the information a second or third time will help you recall the information when you need it.

3) Ask Questions-
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Please. First of all, there are very few places in business for shyness. Be accountable and ask questions in regard to information you are unclear about. It’s your responsibility to know what you need to know. It’s much more embarrassing to be the person on film running the wrong route or the person who brought the wrong presentation to the meeting.

4) Knock the chip off your shoulder-
Listening is about caring. Value the people around you and seek to learn from them at all cost. If you walk through your day believing you are too busy to talk to your employees then you are missing out on an invaluable education and almost guaranteeing that later when you are actually paying attention to a conversation, a previous topic will come up and you will be the one left in the dark. All because you didn’t think it important enough the first time… It’s hard to redeem yourself after this happens – It’s far better as well as utilitarian to simply care about your people and listen to what they have to say.

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