In my work, helping to drive change initiatives I interview many leaders, sometimes up to 30 per week. Many are busy CEOs running organizations, who have very little time. So. I have learned to interview efficiently.

One of the most effective interview techniques I know is Story Listening. Through listening to a good story, I can learn a lot about a person, including:

  • How they frame their work
  • Their values and priorities

I’ve created a five-part model that helps me gather essential information. These are the five gems I look for:

  1. Educational Deficit – information gaps that can be easily addressed
  2. High-Value nuggets – easy wins or penetrating insights
  3. Themes – anything mentioned by more than one interviewee; shared perceptions are extremely important regardless of factuality
  4. Yellow Lights – warnings
  5. Red Lights – perceived showstoppers

Story Listening is instrumental when you want to influence people. Research shows that when trying to change someone’s viewpoint, no matter how logical and rational your argument is, people tend to dig in deeper. However, if you start with listening, ask them about their story, they are more likely to be open to influence.

To learn more about story listening and practical interview skills, check out my business best seller, Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out.