Category Archives: Listening

leave people better off than you found them …

“And that’s really the secret to everything, isn’t it?  To be fearless, to go out and try and grab life, no matter what it is, and not wait for good things to wander into the kitchen through the cat door.”
Jason Gay  – Wall Street Journal July 22,2013


Another secret to life is helping others become more of who they really could be.  The secret is leaving another person better off than when you first met them or interacted with them.   Imagine what would happen if companies worked in that same manner.  What would happen if every manager, every employee, every “C” level executive increased the value of everyone they interacted with?   Companies would go beyond great.

Far too many businesses, organizations or entities  are filled  with people who trampled on rather than being built up.   People are  more like a resource, a mineral deposit in which we extract or exploit the value of that resource until it is gone, until there is nothing left, and then we move on.   Recently I encountered a person who did the right thing in their job and then the managers  in the organization decided to make life miserable for the employee so that the individual would choose leaving.    The one act of courage to do the right thing was dismissed and instead of building up the person they were torn down.

This is an appeal to leaders everywhere, what are you doing to add value to the lives of others?   Are you leaving them better off than you when you first met them or interacted with them?

Make that an exercise for today, improve the value of the people you meet and interact with.   Then repeat each day.


1. Say thank-you, genuinely and authentically
2. Let them make a mistake and ask them what they learned
3. Give them more responsibility, show that you trust them.
4. Be open to their words – Listen.

What else can you think of that would add value to those you interact with?

What is stopping you?

lead from where you are ..

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Some people want to lead because they believe they deserve to lead.   Others lead by showing other the way, by having a compelling vision and reason for others to follow.    Leadership is an attitude. Leadership is being confident without being arrogant.

You may have seen those leaders that are using brute force to lead.   The  followers make sure they are going in a different direction when they see the brute force leader.   Leadership by title or position isn’t leadership of itself it takes more and requires more.

People who want to grow into leadership positions must constantly be developing their attitudes, skills and evaluating their own growth.

1. Developing an attitude to lead is in part developing an attitude of humility so that you can serve others in their own development.   People readily engage with those who are willing to help improve their abilities and potential for the future.

2. Honing your personal leadership skills by continual learning and experience.  Moving up in an organization may be improved by showing that you can lead.  This might mean finding organizations or areas that you can demonstrate your leadership.  It might mean volunteering for leadership positions so that you can tune and grow your leadership skills.

3. Reflection and looking back at the lessons learned is something that allows the potential leader to see what can be improved.   The leadership experience is enhanced when the developing leader can recognize areas for improvement and then to take responsibility for making personal change.

How many times have you seen or read about a leader who did not take responsibility for their outcomes.     In recent weeks one recognized leader has not admitted their own failings and is paying the price in losing stature among his followers.   Leadership means taking responsibility for both the good and the bad and owning the outcome.

It is easy for those who aren’t strong leaders to push that responsibility to someone else, to other things. The lesson is this, shape your attitude and take responsibility, continue to grow and develop and to look at the leadership lessons you’ve experienced and change what needs to be changed.
What does your attitude say about your leadership, take a look,

broken … relationships

WIIFM … What’s in it for ME.   We live in a “ME” focused society and wonder why relationships at work and home don’t work.

50 percent of all marriages in which the brides are 25 or older result in a failed marriage. — National Center for Health Statistics

A 50% failure rate in business would get serious attention, yet for married men and women divorce is nearly routine an acceptable way out.    It may be that the cultural differences between men and women are not being adequately addressed so the default has become, “separation” or “divorce”.   What could change the outcome of a relationship that is going in the wrong direction?

If both people took 100% responsibility for making the relationship work then perhaps there would be a higher success rate.   Not only is taking responsibility important so is knowing what the other person “needs”.    Most people enter a relationship with the intent of making it work and sometimes the “communication” between the man and the woman gets so bad that both people want the relationship to go away.

So, let’s look at what things might need to change to get a relationship back on track.   Men need respect.  Women need love.   Men speak in the language of respect and miss the need to communicate love to their wife.   Women speak in the language of love and miss the need to communicate respect to their husbands.   It is a classic model of having a good intention with a poor outcome.

For men it means listening to their wives and not trying to fix anything.  It just means being understanding and caring vs. a mechanic, engineer, or repairman and trying to fix the problem.   The problem men have is that they feel that anything that is brought to them needs a solution and listening and being empathetic isn’t the first thing that comes to their mind.

For women it means speaking to their husband in terms of appreciation.   What may happen is that wives will notice an issue that needs to be addressed but bring it up in such a way that it sounds disrespectful and that leaves the man feeling like he doesn’t matter.  When the man feels like he doesn’t matter he responds to his wife in an unloving way.

So, it may start with disrespect and then to unloving, the cycle begins and before long the argument has peaked and the man walks away and quits talking which only angers the wife even more.   Both people want what they want (WIIFM) and that makes it difficult to stop the cycle.

Men could stop the cycle by responding, “When I hear that it sounds disrespectful” and the wife could stop the cycle by saying, “When I hear that it sounds unloving”.   Instead of generating more tension and more anger it takes one person to stop the cycle and say, “I feel ______________ when you say _________________”.

Is it easy to stop the cycle?   It does take some maturity and discipline to recognize that an argument is starting to spin out of control.   It takes courage to stop bringing up things that happened months ago as fuel for justifying how one feels.

Simple first steps:

1. Women speak in a language or respect to your husband or partner.

2. Men speak in a loving way to your wife or partner.

If you don’t know how, ask,  ask the other person what it means to speak in the right way and then listen to the response.   Work on it and see what happens.

“caring is a tacit agreement to take care of each other”  Zig Ziglar

encourage someone today

“I like to listen.I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.
Most people never listen.”    Ernest Hemingway

Some days can be pretty disappointing.   The news flashes across the screen of one disaster after another.   Perhaps your job is in jeopardy or it may have been announced that many positions at your place of employment are going to be eliminated.   Maybe there is a health issue you have to deal with and it is draining your energy.   It could be that an important relationship is in trouble and it is pulling you down.

Maybe it isn’t you that is impacted by the negative stories around you but there is someone you know that is impacted.   Why not cheer them up a bit, encourage them by “listening” to them and acknowledging the story they are sharing with you.   Listening could be the most powerful form of encouragement that person would experience and that just might be what lifts them up so that they can once again fly.

Just simply listen, and then echo back their words as you acknowledge the pain they are feeling in the moment.   

Francois La Rochefoucauld wrote, “The reason why so few people are agreeable in conversation is that each is thinking more about what he intends to say than about what others are saying, and we never listen when we are eager to speak.”

For many people listening isn’t listening.   That is for most people what appears to be listening is the thought about what to say next.   It takes effort to pause the internal thoughts and put them aside long enough to really hear what the other person has to say.   Letting them share their story, their pain, their grief and their thoughts will encourage them by letting them know someone does care.

The most powerful form of encouragement, listening with intention of hearing what the other person has to say.

Just silence the mind,  listen intently, with understanding, and you will encourage someone.   Do it today.

teams to teamwork

“The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress.”
– Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French Philosopher

 When two or more people engage in a similar activity to achieve a common goal, teamwork will produce a higher quality result.   The ideal team size is between 4-6 six people; this is where the combined IQ of the team reaches its peak and where the greatest synergy can be obtained.  Teams are powerful combinations of people committed to achieving uncommon results.

Teams,  when they are working correctly can work through difficult issues and solve complex problems.   While teams can produce outstanding results in many cases they don’t.   People who work in teams have to let part of their ego and judgment go.  People engaged in teamwork have to yield to the higher good and often they let their ego stand in the way of team results.

What then makes a good team?

  1. Communication
  2. Trust
  3. Being able to discuss tough issues without attacking individuals
  4. Being able to let go of judgment
  5. Being willing to neutralize the ego

For some people items 2-5 are difficult to do.   The first item, communications is something everyone thinks they do well with.   For some people talking is good communications, if they are speaking that is, for them that is what good communications is all about.   Communications is more than actively emitting sound waves.   Communications is more powerful when it is done from a non-judgmental point of view and when it is done with the intent of understanding.   The most powerful aspect of communications is listening to understand and speaking to clarify.  Powerful communications is done when it is without the participation of the ego.  The ego lives just to go for the ride.   The ego is the backseat driver that is in the mode of adding critical commentary that is usually not beneficial. 

When the ego is involved in listening it means that judgment is occurring during the narrative that someone else is providing and that distorts or silences the intent of the message.  If there is a reply sitting, or if there is a reply taking shape when someone else is speaking there is no listening being done.   The brain is a single channel device it is either receiving or sending information.   Two thoughts can’t reside in the mind simultaneously while listening.

 What would happen if people could listen with the intent to understand and to suspend judgment?   If people could suspend judgment they would more forward towards greater contribution and generate higher group energy which would allow for the generation new ideas.   New ideas become the soup for the genesis of solutions to problems; teams after all are solving some type of problem.  Teams are in the process of creating something new, whether it is a problem or the act of discovery, something new will be generated.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The first and most difficult task of dialogue involves parking the ego and listening with an open spirit. From this receptivity can come questions which lead to understanding.

“What is it you see that I don’t?”
“How do you see this differently and why?”
“Please help me understand from your perspective.”

To ask these questions requires that one no longer need to have the best or last answer. Expanding one’s understanding becomes more important than being right or getting one’s point across.”
—Dr. Ann McGee-Cooper
from the article Dialogue: The Power of Understanding

Teams need to communicate effectively in order to thrive.  Effective communication, honest, open, vulnerable communication begins when there is a high level of trust.   When one person on the team holds the cards the trust in that team is going to be lower.  There will be reserved participation or there will be the kind of participation that is done for the benefit of the person who is not holding the conversation in trust.  

In organizations where hierarchy and rule of position is still the method of operation unless there is an authentic and genuine regard for all forms of communication the ability for those who are in subordinate positions to express their ideas that are controversial will be muted.  

Looking at the teams you work with, what kind of communication takes place?  Is it authentic, open, genuine, honest, and generative?   What do the conversations look like?   What new ideas are being generated?   What does the energy in the team look like?   What is the sound of the conversation?   How do you feel when you are engaged in real teamwork?

Kindness works best when

“Kindness is a language we all understand.  Even the blind can see it and the deaf can hear it.” 
                                                                                    Mother Teresa 

How do you spread kindness?   How do you encourage others to reach their full potential?   When was the last time you were encouraged, thanked, appreciated, or acknowledged?

If you have been acknowledged recently those around you probably haven’t been either.   What a great way to start a trend – acknowledge those around you and see what happens.   Brighten their day to brighten yours!

relentless focus

Listening is an essential attribute in a client coach relationship.  Each of us carries with us a story, a unique story about the past, present and the future.  Our story is filled with the experiences and events that have shaped our lives. 

For example when we are listening we hear the words (content) and then relate them to our contextual framework (our experience).   As we overlay what we hear with our experience (what is in our memory) we “pop out” of the conversation for a moment and depending on the vividness of the story we may “pop out” of the conversation for a few seconds.   When that happens we have lost connection with the story that is being presented (i.e. we are no longer present). 

Intentional listening takes work and like physical exercise needs to be done often in order to improve.   Listen with intent for thirty seconds each day building towards one minute of focused listening (which means silencing the internal critic in the head).  Process the story and allow the story being told to be the only thing that is being processed.   When there are breaks in concentration quickly return to the full focus of listening.

If the speaker mentions “mountains” our mind will imagine a mountain and in many cases our mind will probe the shape, the orientation, height, cliffs, valleys and other features of that mountain and that takes us away from the story.   Those “pops” out of the listening experience need to be very brief in order to be fully present in the listening process.  

It is not that it is wrong to connect our context with the content of the story because that is how we are able to share experiences even though there are vast differences in the context of the story.   We just need to be careful not to escape into our story when we are listening to the story of another person.

Do you “pop out” of the story or are you disciplined in your listening abilities?

How long can you focus on the story of another person?

What can you do to improve your focus?

Now what if your brain becomes full, what do you do?  [This is where we acknowledge the story, through paraphrasing, echoing, questioning …]

Listen to hear

Listen to learn, how hard is that to do? How often do we take the time out just to listen? To listen to others? To listen to the sounds of nature? To listen to our own hearts? How much time do we take out of our lives to just listen?

When we listen are we preparing to answer the thought that is being generated in our minds? What is the nature of that thought? Where did the thought come from? If our mind is focused on listening it needs to be focused on the words, the sounds and rhythms rather than formulating a response.

What if we had a listener first approach to sounds of the world whether people, nature or the heart?

Look at the image at the top of the post. What do you hear? What sounds do you think are emanating from the image?

Are life’s secrets in the listening?