Leadership Lessons: How Listening Changes Your Responses

Hearing and listening are related. Similar yet very different. We hear loud sounds, the wind, someone laughing or yelling. And then what? We just get on with our day.

Listening, ah, another story entirely.

Were you ever told to “listen up” when you were a kid? Did someone ever say “Hey, will you just shut up and listen?”

Big question: Were you ever taught to listen?

Guess Who’s Coming To Breakfast, Lunch and Maybe Even Dinner

Is your company going through a growth spurt? Need more good people to participate in your exciting endeavors? Want to fill the shoes of those who have moved up with those ready to move up?

Warning: Don’t overlook those seated before you.

Fix-Em, Don’t Fire-Em

Ever hear (or say) something like “Diane is THE PROBLEM. Everything will be solved if we just get rid of her.”

How often does this type of response show up when things aren’t working at work?

Look, maybe Diane is THE PROBLEM and she must go. However, then again, maybe there’s a deeper issue lurking under the radar.

Our natural tendency is to point the finger at her, him or them and step back from looking at the whole enchilada.

How Todays Trinity of Extremes Affects Us All

Yes, we live in a fast paced world. Yes, we are often at tipping points of stress. Yes, we can do better.

“We are all in it together and no one wins unless we all do.” This mantra sounds good, however, for most of us it sounds naïve. Sometimes the world seems to be spinning out of control and the issues are too big and a single individual, a mere speck in the universe, is too small to make a dent in the issues.

The trinity of today’s extremes are:

Poverty
Climate
Violence
As I listened to the speakers at the Clinton Global initiative I was bouncing between hope, anger and depression.

Hope won.

Magic Moments Best When Unexpected

Got on the bus. Waited. Got on another bus. Waited even longer.

Had a bad feeling this paid in advance tour was going to disappoint.

And it did.

Almost.

Tours to that revered site in Rome, the Vatican are expensive and seemingly necessary. Otherwise the lines can be hours long.

The Vatican is a must see in Rome. Regardless of religious background or preference there is a majesty to being in the presence of some of the most amazing art and sculpture the world has to offer. And looking up at the Blessing Window where the Pope stands and then pivoting around to observe what it must be like to look out at huge numbers of appreciative and reverent individuals is a stunning moment.

However, that is not where the memorable magic happened for me.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I hear this plaintive cry from executives and middle managers all the time. I hear it from superintendents to elementary school teachers for at least ten months out of the year.

Getting along is what we all want. Right? So, why does it seem almost impossible to get through even a few days without feeling that blood boiling moment of “Not THAT again!” or “Can’t they just zip it?”

I would like to boil this down to some basics for you to think about.

Relationships are hard work.

You can’t learn how to be your best you by reading something that gives you 5 quick tips for happiness.

It’s just not that simple.

Clear The Past To Free The Future: Life Stories Spoken Out Loud Heal Wounds From Our Unresolved Racial War

Charles sat down and wiped the perspiration from his forehead. He looked at the fifteen others in the room and could not decide if he was relieved or simply embarrassed.

Finally John broke the silence by saying quietly, “We really are all truly sorry. Thank you for your honesty and openness.”

That was it.

The moment Charles had been hoping for since he was a little kid. All he wanted was someone to say “I’m sorry.” And now he had fifteen women and men who told him they were sorry for the barbs and taunts and put downs. One by one they had looked at him and said they were sorry.

Charles had just finished telling the story of his life.

The Downside Of Growing Your Organizational Culture

I was sitting having a quick dinner in Manhattan with some colleagues. The place was packed and the noise level high. Just a typical 6:30 p.m. time of workplace decompressing, after one of those typical rush and get it done days.

At the table to the left we heard “No one should be forced to share as much as they do here. They think they are creating a culture of trust. It’s just a bunch of bull.”

To the right, “Why the heck can’t they just get with the program and stop complaining all the time? What a bunch of whiners.”

Another table not far where they were getting very vocal and physically flinging hands around, “They actually force us to admit failure and what we don’t like about ourselves. Nasty stuff! We just want to get our jobs done and get to our beer time.”

One of my colleagues shrugged and said “Not much has changed in all the years we have been working. Still bitch and complain and judge and attack. When will it ever change?”

Blame it on our belief systems, blame it on our parents, blame it on our culture.

Or maybe stop the blame and say, “It will stop with me” or better yet, “It will start with me.”

So, what do we stop and what do we start?

Do You Want To Change?

There is an old saying, “Technology changes, people don’t.”

It’s kind of depressing to think that with all the good stuff at our finger tips, we are not much different from Neanderthal man and woman.

Well, maybe we dress better.

As social beings, everything we do is interactive and contextual. And yes, technology has changed much of our behavior and much of our behavior dictates what is next in technology.

What hasn’t changed is that our interactive behaviors create different kinds of experiences, and that is where we really need to think about what kind of experience do we want to create, at home and at work.

The excellent book, “An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization” by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, explores the essence of relating in the modern workplace.

Ain’t It Good To Be Alive

Last weekend we trekked to Manhattan for the season premiere of ALIVE: 55+ and Kicking.

And what a day it was.

Just being in the presence of the executive producer, Vy Higginsen would have been enough. However, the day brought so much that I simply want to stand up and applaud the entire cast and the brilliance of an idea so needed in our world today.

Vi took the microphone before the start of the show and in her vivacious manner said, “The first 50 years of life are for learning, and the next 50 are for living.” And off we went on a musical holiday of song and story about, well just about all of us. It was about dreams gone astray, dreams fulfilled, happy days, hurtful days, and how to get up and get going, no matter what.

I will be interviewing Vy for my book “GUTSY BREAKTHROUGH STORIES” so here is just a snap shot of this mover and shaker. She is an award winning author, playwright, radio and TV personality. She is full of firsts: first woman on New York prime-time radio, first female executive in advertising, and founder of the Mama Foundation for the Arts in Harlem.

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