Posts Tagged ‘others’

Constructive Power: Cheeks & Havel

January 23, 2012

When influence is used in constructive ways – people applaud. Literally.

One of the most stunning and very public examples of poise was witnessed by 25,000 basketball fans a few years ago. It’s likely millions have seen it by now.

From Jeers to Cheers

Picture a lovely and nervous teen girl in a strapless evening dress as she tentatively approaches a microphone in front of a big crowd at the Portland Rose Garden Arena. She stood between the fans and the game start to sing the national anthem. When the teen faltered for words many in the crowd began to jeer. Judgment was swift and cruel.

Portland Trailblazers head coach Maurice Cheeks saw a need. He recognized talent in trouble and walked quickly to her side. Then, he provided her the words she needed…singing along…so she could finish the anthem. (See video here.) The crowd exploded with raucous cheers, a standing ovation and applause.

Compassion Wins

What an instructive and thoughtful example. Although it wasn’t part of his job or an expectation, while someone else could have helped, he acted. The crowd was thrilled by his leadership.  Grounded in compassion, he acted in behalf of another and demonstrated grace. It was a kind and simple thing to do. It served far more than the trembling singer.

Modest and Brave

Just a few week ago, the death of a “decent” guy captured the mourning hearts of a nation. A playwright, Vaclav Havel, challenged the Czechoslovak Communist regime. An authentic sense of personal responsibility was Havel’s motivation. As leader of a dissident movement, reflective editorials indicate he talked constantly of “the need to live according to morality, conscience, and responsibility” as well as “the dangers of racism and corruption.”

While the expectations Havel set didn’t endear him to others in the beginning.  Observers say he was the first to admit his own flaws. He also showed a “synthesis of modesty and bravery” as well as “freedom from pride, hatred and fanaticism.” Eventually Havel became a deeply beloved president and was known worldwide for his perspectives.  His most famous essay is The Power of the Powerless. A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Havel authored more than 20 plays and books.

 A Decent Guy

The Toronto Star eulogized him. “Many will ask what made Havel exceptional. The answer is simple: decency. He was a decent principled man.” Havel fought against “an indecent, immoral system.” And, he governed without personal gain in mind. His “first commitment was to common decency and the common good, not to holding power.”

While none of us is likely to coach an NBA team or be president, everyone can take important actions.

  • Speak up when you witness an inequity or oppression,
  • Make the effort to remark on capable behavior or initiative that would go unnoticed,
  •  Welcome a chance to offer an enthusiastic letter of reference, and
  • Sit (or stand) with a person in distress.

These are small opportunities for your influence. Leaders lift others up. They often redistribute power. Although you may not be stage center, provide a leadership example we’re all hungry to see. Even if you don’t hear it – many will applaud.

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 :

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 :

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