Data Listening, Do You Have This Skill?

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data listening

Data Listening, Do You Have This Skill?

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Data is out there, it is everywhere. We have lots and lots of data but what does it all mean? What about the opinions from friends, coworkers, or clients? Are you effective at data listening?

When we hear the word data we often think about numbers. We think about the financial statement, the metric for production efficiency, or the results from a scientific study. Sure, that is data, but so is the information that surrounds us.

Data Trouble Spots

Several trouble spots with data often plague organizational team members. It may be the CEO, or it may be the front-line team lead. It happens in stand-alone decisions or in the group or committee. Are you listening to the data? Should you?

Here are a few trouble spots:

  • Biased listening
  • Inappropriate frame
  • Too much data
  • Too little data
  • Opinions not facts

Often the more experienced we believe we are, the less effective we are at data listening. As leaders grow and elevate their status they may also start to listen with less efficiency and more bias.

Self-perception or deception is often problematic. Leaders make choices based on gut feel, or what seems to be the most mainstream point of view. Worse, they sometimes do it for future positioning or self-interest.

Data Listening

Some listening deficiencies are easily improved. Others are harder to identify or address.

Framing is a significant problem. Simply put, people don’t know what they don’t know. Every decision we make is based on our frame.

While the origins are obscure, the idiom, “Think outside the box,” is often attributed to John Adair who studied critical thinking in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Watch out for the frame you place around your decisions.

Information and data are everywhere, it is the art of exceptional listening that makes a difference for what happens next. Thinking alike is often just as problematic as it is good.

Sometimes the best way to see the data is with a different set of eyes.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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