Monthly Archives: October 2010

Listen Up: The Key to Unlocking Success

 |  Leadership

Listening is one of the fundamental and essential skills for a leader. Active and full listening is non-judgmental, unconditionally constructive, and totally for the person to whom we are listening. Active and full listening provides the clues a leader needs to ask the right question in the right way in the right moment. Without active and full listening there can be no true leading.

Many times when we would like to think we are listening, we aren’t. We may hear others; but we aren’t really listening. We don’t listen most of the time. We pause and wait. We wait for our turn to talk again. While we are waiting, we are thinking ahead for the point we want to make next, or about what we want for lunch, or how boring or incompetent this person is.

I’ll say it again, without active and full listening there can be no true leading. Listening takes lots of focus, energy, and practice. It also requires that leaders are curious and empathetic.

Active and full listening requires us to be curious. What is the experience of the other person? What might be a barrier to this person’s full engagement and high performance? What is driving their current behavior? What does this person need from me right now?

To actively listen with authentic curiosity requires us to practice empathy. Listening with empathy shuts out our own voices of judgment about the other person. It shuts out our own voices of cynicism or fear about what the person might be saying or how the person might be making us feel. Active and empathetic listening fully acknowledges the presence and the message of the other person. Listening at this level is affirming and empowering.

Leaders who wish to unlock the key to their own success and the success of their teams work hard to be better and better listeners. Everything else builds on this simple fact.

What I know.

 |  Leadership

Last year, in a conversation with my coach, I discussed this question, “What would I like to be able to say I truly know in my life, about my life?” Here’s what I wrote:

“I know that we have a capacity to achieve anything. I know that we are responsible for our choices and for the life we create. I know that we are interconnected. I know that I do not always live in a way that demonstrates that I believe these first three statements.

I know that how I act teaches my children more about life and who I am than what I say. I know that I am always searching. I know that my search is both an outer and an inner journey. I know that I know that I have the talent and intelligence to succeed. I know that the secret is to let go. I know that’s hard.

I know that in spite of all this or because of all this or both, I am enjoying my life. And if I’m not, the responsible party looks at me in the mirror every day.”

How about you?

Facilitating Growth

 |  Leadership

Just as leaders must create the conditions that enable high performance, they must create the conditions that enable the growth of their people as well. If we want to help others to grow, we need to create an environment that encourages growth. We create such an environment through empathy, warmth, and genuineness. Humanistic psychologists call this an environment of unconditional positive regard.

Warmth is easy. We can all be warm toward others; even if we don’t necessarily like them. We can even fake warmth. We do that all the time. Empathy and genuineness are harder. To be really empathetic and see and feel the other person’s experience, we have to genuinely want to do so. If we’re not, we’re faking my empathy just like we can fake being warm.

I think we become more genuine when we engage in an ongoing process of self-reflection and dialogue with others. It’s how we learn more about ourselves, our strengths and our blind spots. The insights learned from our reflection and dialoguing with another enable the shifts in mindset and skill set that are the signs of growth. As we grow, we can create an environment that will help the people on our teams to grow. Focusing on enabling growth has a dual effect: people grow AND engagement and performance levels go up. Funny how that works.

Here’s a link to a great article on the practice of empathy: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-nichtern/the-pursuit-of-happiness-_b_743570.html