Posts Tagged ‘time’

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

Managing Deadlines and Dodging Bullets

July 5, 2011

Contemporary management can thank the battlefield of the American Civil War for the term “deadline.” Lacking physical structures to secure prisoners, captors gathered prisoners together in a huddle. A line drawn around them in the dirt was known as the “dead line.” Anyone who strayed beyond it was shot.

Time Management

Managers set specific timing to accomplish tasks for many reasons. Deadlines, now known as a time-limit, can encourage a new urgency that ensures progress. They establish key targets that require design, planning and execution of work. This sets a pace for action when delay and avoidance are too often far easier.

I frequently tell clients capital finds good ideas; but talent and timing are most important. The pace and sequence of work against a specified schedule catalyzes, then supports, important momentum.

Decision Windows

Timing is a significant issue in managing and leading. Decision windows open and close with alarming speed. Prompt action on a set schedule builds credibility and signals priorities. Selecting opportunities in the press of limited time is a skill that comes with intention and experience. As the number of factors beyond your control grow – choices about when to release a message, hire, fire or pursue an alliance are essential to creating change.

Deadlines are vital to interdependencies and complex work that involves multiple players. Expectations associated with milestones can encourage flagging spirits. And, importantly, consequences around deadlines mean a shared focus has “teeth.”

 Discipline Means Deadlines

Often, an undisciplined use of time means a lack of discipline in other areas. For good reasons, deadlines can be adapted. However, an organization or team that avoids setting or meeting deadlines isn’t very credible. It can be symptomatic of a lack of priorities, a need to re-visit purpose or even irrelevance. We’re careful about deadlines at our office. This has sometimes meant all-night and weekend work to deliver on promises.

Manage deadlines – so they don’t manage you. They can increase the effectiveness of your team and keep you in the safety zone where you won’t get shot.

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

The Size and Speed of Change

May 24, 2011

 

Recently, a professor and a marketing consultant, suggested creating a $300 house. They punted it up publicly. The response has been overwhelming. Their target could transform the lives of millions of desperately poor children and families across the globe. If it happens – it is a breakthrough innovation.

This goal challenges what’s feasible, alters expectations and prompts innovation. These are vital levers for big, fast change. Name the intended result, assemble the case, articulate the implications. Then, gather the knowledge, skills, insights, experience, enthusiasm and possibilities for strategy and execution.

 Progress & Pace

Reflect for a moment on two dimensions of change – scale and time. A continuum of scale could cover polar ends: from none (simply preserving  the status quo) to boldly disruptive. A range for time can span from instant to perpetuity. What’s a “fair” expectation for progress and pace?

An insulated and isolated organization (or community) may not make much progress year after year. The adjacent possible is severely oppressed and any change comes grudgingly.  Even incremental, minor movement may be difficult. Although essential to growth and vitality, substantial change won’t happen until there are new people with different training, experience, expectations and habits. Moreover, disruptive change doesn’t occur until there’s a sudden tip point, often the result of a power shift.

 The Best Attitude

“Let’s go slow to go fast” is commonly said in organizations that must improve. This can translate to “I’m risk averse” or let’s quietly move the goal posts. Alternatively, it  may mean there needs to be more knowledge, skills and trust to do the work ahead. Sometimes it is appropriate – sometimes not. If for-profit organizations don’t change fast – it’s certain they will fail. Current and emerging marketplace competitors ensure that. Although far less sensitive to market forces, non-profits must adapt to perform, too.

Many organizations affect internal culture by clearly describing expected attitudes. For example, a “humility and a hunger to learn” is one of several Kellogg Company leadership values.  The San Diego Food Bank operates with an “acute sense of urgency.” ConAgra identifies simplicity, accountability and collaboration as key internal principles. Nestle wants a “willingness to learn” commitment among their employees. All of these declarations signal an environment which supports change.

 Target & Timing

If nearly anything is possible: What’s your stretch goal? What’s the deadline? Perhaps a 28% return on investment or no domestic violence for one month. Maybe, in six months, it’s a $25 toilet or no drunk driving in your county. By 2014, what about a 60% reduction in teen pregnancy, creating a $1,000 car, or every high school graduate in your town will be college-ready.

Thought leadership can be an essential prompt for the size and speed of change. We know most people are deeply motivated by satisfaction and results. By specifying an audacious goal and deadline, expectations for scale and pace are set. Why not start with these?

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

Intrigued? Tap this link for more information on a $300 house.


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