Archive for November, 2011

Two Ears & One Mouth

November 27, 2011

It’s an under-rated skill, but it is the one most people deeply appreciate in others: listening.

Great Reception

Our reception of others’ expression is listening. Most North Americans give weighted attention to talking. Glib talkers, people who are articulate get loads of stage time. While any capable communicator must have both verbal and writing skills, we too often underestimate listening.

A great listener pays attention to the speaker and demonstrates the ability to understand, interpret and evaluate what’s said. Why is this so critical?  Listening well accomplishes several things: it generates rapport, establishes shared meaning, and provides information. These are essential to both relationship and understanding. The reception that occurs is the launch pad for dialogue. Listening can help avoid mistrust – it can build trust. It can resolve conflicts. It offers vital insight for constructive use. It provides key inputs for transparency and learning. Listening also supports a safe, healthy culture.

Thomas Gordon is credited with the idea of “active listening.” It requires us to:

suspend a point of reference,

preclude judgment and

to avoid other mental action.

This isn’t easy. There are many barriers to effective listening. They include distractions, trigger words, limited vocabulary, attention span, emotions and psycho-social and physical noise. Time and skills are challenges to being a great listener. Listening does take time. It requires being present to another individual or, when in a group, to several people. 

Destructive Mis-Use

The “passive violence” of indifference is often shown by no appetite or disinterest in listening.However, like sincerity, it is possible to “fake” listening. We’ve all seen people do it. When we recognize that tactic – it can cause offense. It’s a disingenuous action that conveys disrespect. It simply takes information or interrogates without goodwill. This behavior can be particularly destructive to relationships. It burns bridges.

When participating in small groups or individual conversations, watch yourself and others for these errors:

Pseudo-listening. Polite physical presence with no internal registration or meaning.

Shift response. Moving conversation to a self focus as you compete for attention and make your own needs primary.

Glaze over. Your mind is on other issues and active with concerns completely unconnected to the speaker.

Stage hogging. Grabbing “air time” to filibuster with your own verbal delivery that conquers and dominates others.

Authentic intention is crucial to active, genuine listening. The “test” of a capable listener is the relative capacity to repeat, paraphrase and reflect the speaker’s intent.  It means you can exactly mimic, similarly rephrase and confirm with your own words. Some think that our “equipment” as humans signals a practical wisdom: two ears and one mouth are significant. These levels of interpretation indicate accurate reception with increasing sensitivity.

Better managing and leading requires us to listen carefully. Listening shows sustained interest in others. And, when you’re the speaker, how does that feel?

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

Looking at Leadership

November 13, 2011

 

It’s not always easy to quickly and clearly distinguish managing from leading. They are different, but talented people can do both. A conscious commitment to work on specific competencies can yield growth.

While there’s some overlap, there are unique factors, too. Management nearly always references a supervising role with organizational accountabilities. Leadership is far broader in its application and is independent of a job title.

Leadership is the ability to influence others. It can reflect multiple dimensions. Someone holding a management position should, but may not exhibit leadership. In many organizations, this is often the case. When leadership is absent the opportunity cost is large for several reasons: lackluster results and a poor example that gets imitated. Organizations perform better when key staff can both manage and lead.

INSEAD’s 12 Factors

If you’re intentional about leadership development, here’s just one valid way to think about skills and knowledge. INSEAD, a highly regarded and leading educator, created the GELI (Global Executive Leadership Inventory). GELI relies on a 360-degree assessment from others. It has twelve factors:

 1. Envisioning. Articulates a compelling vision, mission, strategy.

2. Empowering. Enables others via delegation and sharing the right information well.

3. Energizing. Supports and motivates others.

4. Design & Aligning. Can “see” parameters and points of intersection for action.

5. Feedback. Can advise in the development of others.

6.Team Building. Guides others, shows courage, offers counsel to cooperative efforts.

7. Outside Orientation. Reads and interprets external data for internal application.

8. Global Mindset. Liaisons across cultures, assists parts with the whole.

9. Tenacity. Takes risks and shows consistent courage.

10. Emotional Intelligence. Fosters trust through example. Demonstrates self-awareness, respect, understanding.

11. Life Balance. Pursues multiple interests and passions beyond work.

12. Resilience. Seeks challenge and accountability, handles stress and pressure.

If your colleagues and “customers” completed a survey instrument – How would you rate? Where are your strengths and weaknesses? We can often learn a great deal by looking in the mirror, first.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. She is also an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com


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