Let’s Try Something Really Radical – Listening
Our world is full of action junkies, quick decision makers, movers and shakers which make making good decisions very hard to do at the best of times.
We are bombarded with information, politics, internal issues of the family, work or community kind, resulting in a stressed, overworked and thoroughly distracted population. You can see this when you are in a meeting and view how many participants are on their smartphones, completely distracted from the meeting process, restaurants with totally families glued to phones rather than chatting socially face to face.
What does making half-baked decisions do your reputation and career?
Can you make informed judgments in this type of mayhem? I would say not likely. Not informed decisions anyway. How do we slow things down to speed them up? Let me explain. Making decisions based on incomplete information is sometimes necessary but not as often as we are lead to believe. There is an element of luck for many who make decisions with a smattering of relevant information, and these folks fall into the ready, fire, aim approach to management.
Now I am going to introduce the subject of mindfulness. How many of you reading this article rolled your eyes or thought, “OMG not again with this flakey stuff. I don’t have time for hippy crap.” If you just did any of these things, this article is meant for you.
Mindfulness has gone mainstream. Commander Mark Devine – The Uber Trainer of Navy Seals, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Tony Robbins, are all very successful people who have found working on mindfulness to be a significant part of their success. These are crazy busy people that run vast organizations, and they find the time in their hectic days to focus on what is needed to sustain their success. Even the cynics are coming to see the advantages of mindful focus. It is no longer for hippies, tree huggers, and eastern mystic weirdos. It is a movement that has arrived to support adaptation to emotional overload. The adaptive survive says every Darwinism believer.
What is the big deal about mindfulness? The foundational principles are the ability to understand what you are thinking and feeling at any given time. This is a very challenging task to accomplish in the early stages because it takes commitment, focus, and patience. Nature did not provide many filters to assist us, so it is sheer determination and commitment to excellence that must prevail. One of the key skills of mindfulness is the able to listen openly and hear what is not being said. Listening is a critical mindfulness tool.
I moved into the early stages of mindfulness when I started managing people and actively coaching leadership principles. To guide and learn from my staff I had to be very aware of everything I was thinking and challenge the process significantly. I went under the belief that I wasn’t always the smartest person in the room, but I likely was the most strategic. How could I solicit valuable information from those who I trusted to do their jobs so we could achieve our desired corporate and team goals? I had to do something very radical. I had to actively listen to my staff.
I knew that if I didn’t look closely, I was making decisions mainly by guessing. That didn’t sound like executive behaviour, and sure it had often worked enough but could I be satisfied with the odds? I managed a large, kick ass strategic HR team that had money in the game. They were evaluated on the outcome of their HR programs to the business unit they worked in. They sat with the executive of that business unit and used their in-depth knowledge of the BU’s operating needs to assist with planning and development. They were smart, successful and very knowledgeable about the needs of their BU. It was that deep knowledge that I counted on tapping into when strategic decisions had to be made.
I knew we were hired because of our skills as well as how we were able to work as a team through learning and sharing. This is how businesses stay away from silo functioning and very narrow communication bands. It is not sufficient anymore to take your toolkit of skills and try to apply it to every problem, situation, and opportunity. It is imperative that collaboration is used and the starting point for all collaboration is LISTENING. I mean hearing what is being said and what is not being said. Asking questions even though you are afraid to know the answers. Better the devil you know!
I would like to share with six steps to active listening;
1. Suspend your beliefs. You must suspend your preconceived thoughts on the subject. Remember, you don’t have to have all the answers, you do however have to know where to find the answers. Keep an open mind.
2. Don’t rush to a solution. Remember you are in information gathering mode. Don’t jump on the first idea that sits a bit more comfortably with you. Share the thinking to encourage creativity from others.
3. Have an open mind to a new way of doing things or a new way to adapt old ways. This follows the concept of suspending your beliefs. What may seem crazy to you now but be the right way to go tomorrow. Who would have thought Navy Seals would find elite mind capabilities in meditation?
4. You have to want to be successful. I know this sounds a bit weird but you know I have found that some people are keen to show why things or ideas won’t work and are not as forcing about plans for implementation. If you frequently hear yourself saying, “yes we have done that before, and it didn’t work,” or any variation of that, you might not be as interested in success as you thought you were. Think on that for a minute.
5. Be trustworthy. Be one of those people who your colleagues and team members trust to share information with. Give credit where credit is due and keep your ego in check.
6. Be Ethical – If you are forever saying you are transparent, my experience tells me that you are not. Be the kind of person who brings people along with them. Remember a manager who doesn’t have any followers is simply a man or woman going for a walk. Being ethical is not something that can be taught. Demonstrate this quality and expect it in others for a more open, generous and creative workplace.
To wrap this up, I encourage you to start being your radical self-today. Take these six steps above and try them out systematically. Be adaptive with your style to show real management skills. Slow down your thinking in some situations by being present in the conversation that you are involved in. It doesn’t have to be a big talk, and it usually starts with small complaints from an employee. Listen carefully, ask questions and make sure you understand the issue. Then ask the staff member what they think should happen and what is their next step? Listening is a dying art in need of reviving. Put your electronics down and listen, please.