In 1997 I’m teaching a course on our product. It was a tool that allowed insurance brokers to manager their clients. We had integrated office into it. So I explain the integration of excel and one lady is clearly annoyed and starts to complain about excel and how her life was so much easier before she had to use excel.
It’s almost time for a break, so I say lets take a break now and you show me what you need to do with excel and why it’s such a bad tool.

Glad that someone finally listens to her, she opens excel and puts in 10 numbers and then gets her calculator out of her pocket, adds the numbers together and puts the result below the 10 numbers. 
She had been forced to use Excel already for a year or 2. She had been complaining all the time. And no one took the time to listen to her and explain that excel could do the calculation for her. When I showed her that excel could do that, she looked at me with a look I never will forget. A combination of pure ecstasy that the tool could help her and even more anger that no one ever showed her that. 

>> if you use a tool, yet keep working as before and don’t get the explanation of why and how, a new tool won’t help you much.

And this lady? She took a one week course in Excel, became a big Excel fan and eventually the biggest supporter inside her own company. 

All because of 5 minute of listening to her. 

This is why I try to keep listening to the people in the companies that are “ASKED” to go agile…

8 Responses to “The impact of 5 minutes of listening….”

  1. Johan Roels says:


    What you did was not only listening. I bet her colleagues had listened too. The big difference is that you not only listened, you appreciatively understood the lady.

    Indeed, you listened, you took time to paraphrase and, in order to be able to appreciatively understand, you Humbly Inquired (cf Edgar Schein’s latest book ‘Humbly Inquiry’). Understanding her non vocal communication cues led her to show you how she used Excell… the moment she pulled out her calculator you appreciatively understood, ‘in a split second’ she’d never got decent information, let alone correct training regarding the use of Excell.

    Beautiful example of applying some of the tools of ‘my’ Crucial Dialogue Model’. Can I use it in my training sessions?


  2. yhanoulle says:

    Hi Johan,

    yes you can use it in your training.
    I do disagree that her colleagues listened. The story is the short version, I had multiple discussions with her and a colleague who was at the course, so I know that no one actually took the time to listen.
    (She was not the only problem that used excel like that in her company, she was the one complaining about it…)
    You said non-vocal communication, she was actually very vocal about it. She complained very loud, just not clear…


  3. Johan Roels says:

    Thanks Yves,

    For a) being able to use this story and b) for expanding it.

    She complained very loud, just not clear… For you ‘clear’ enough since you saw the non vocal communication clues, therefore to stop the training for a while to be able to have a one on one dialogue in order to solve the problem.

    Love the story and I fear there are more examples of ‘dumping’ software on people without proper training around the ‘why’, the ‘how’ and the ‘what,


  4. yhanoulle says:

    I’m not sure what you mean with non-vocal cues, because for me I reacted to her vocal cue’s. At that time I really had no training what so ever on reading body language or anything similar. I was really bad at figuring these things out, I’m pretty sure that if she would have said nothing, I would not have catched it.

    it was her loud vocal message that made me react.

  5. Johan Roels says:

    My mistake… I meant non-verbal cues (getting old has some ‘nasty’ effects): so everything that is not transmitted by words (syntax). For instance the loudness of the voice, the redness and the expressions of the face are non-verbal cues.
    In this case her message was verbal, the loudness of her voice non-verbal AND vocal. Other ‘vocal nonverbal’ communication cues are: ‘pace,’ intonation, articulation and the use of ‘hmmm’ ‘euuh’ and the like. ‘Non-vocal, nonverbal’ communication or body language: body posture, way of looking, gestures.
    Sorry for my ‘typo’,

  6. yhanoulle says:

    That’s clearer now.
    I still think it was more what she said then how she said it, at that time I was a pure IT’er with little communication skills.


  7. Johan Roels says:

    That’s nice!

    And I do appreciate your ‘Authentic Interacting’. I’ve given so many copies of my fourth book ‘Cruciale dialogen’ away that I do not remember sending a copy to you. So if you didn’t get it and you’re interested, I’ll sent you one (for free but not for ‘nothing’). DM me in that case your postal address.

    BTW I’m ‘following’ Agile People for one year now and I am more and more convinced that the culture needed for Agile to thrive is the (what I call) the Creative Interchange culture. Creative Interchange is the foundation process of ‘Crucial Dialogues’ . My third book was titled ‘Creatieve wisselwerking’.

  8. yhanoulle says:

    I fully agree, agile is first and all about mindset

    I’m not sure if you saw my video agile mindset, this is the latest version: