The only way to get good at listening is to practice listening, and we've done a lot of that. Our team comprises people that are experienced ethnographers, business designers, documentary makers and photographers. All of those roles require using ears and eyes more than mouths.
But we also need to be good at asking the right questions at the right time. I mention setting the tone in this blog post, and that means that we gain trust as early as possible in the process. People need to be clear on what the process is for, how it works and how it might effect them. They need to be clear on how what they say will be used.
If they are clear on those things, and they care about the future of the company, the next challenge is asking people to speak with candour. Without candour, our work cannot be done. Without candour, your company cannot do it's best work. With candour comes potential pain and risk, and it's partly our job to support people through this.
The benefits that come from this way of listening and asking questions are innumerable. The obvious one is that we all have a clear set of stories about the current status of the company. This allows the company to work with more focus on the areas that need support and development and lessens time spent on scattergun approaches to the companies development and strategy. A secondary but as important benefit is people developing good ways to communicate, especially delivering critique.