Communication

Listener In Residence: The Experiment

“From listening comes wisdom.”

I have decided to launch a one year experiment. I am self-appointing myself as the “Listener in Residence” at Innovation Works in London. In this role, I will be gifting my time to any of the co-tenants in the community who want someone to listen to them – deeply, with focus, in a non-judgemental way and with empathetic support.

I’m called to do this because I believe that being heard is one of the most empowering things in life. To pause and be present to another human is one of the most precious gifts we can ever give.

I have noticed that when people start to speak out loud about something that may feel vulnerable, bold, risky or over the top joyful, it’s a signal of something emerging. They are getting clear on something that is wanting to shift or change; on the cusp of something really important.

I also believe that people need to be heard, not fixed. Talking things out is a way of creatively figuring things out. As we give voice to a yearning or a concern, we are already finding our way towards solutions and actions.  

In coaching, there is a principle called holding a person as naturally creative, resourceful and whole. So, as I listen, I will pay attention to all the creative brilliance that lives within each person through the stories they will share.

Innovation Works and the co-tenant community is full of amazing humans with all kinds of potential. This is a community of caring, innovative, socially conscious and inspiring people. It’s also a place where people show up because they are change agents and status quo disruptors. They are wired to take risk and live boldly. That’s not always easy work. I want to support this energy with a gift I can give – my time, an open heart and two big ears for listening.

I am called to do this as a way of giving back to a community that has given me so much. Innovation Works London is just over a year old. Its culture and model of community is still evolving. In some small way I hope this experiment will model the way for the power of thoughtful listening when being in action.

How It Will Work
So, here’s the deal. I will be dedicating 15 hours per month for listening sessions. Each session is 20 minutes. I’ll be inviting people to sign up on designated “Listener in Residence” days. You come with whatever you want to share. I’ll listen. I might ask a few unfolding questions. Through the process, you’ll find your way to some new insights, awareness and intentions. Everything shared will be confidential. My greatest hope is that you leave feeling supported, understood and find some new elements of clarity that will spur you on.

Throughout the year, I’ll be blogging about the experience from the perspective of what it takes to deeply listen.  I won’t be sharing any details of people’s stories.  The Vegas Rule will be fully enforced.

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

I fully anticipate that this will be a transformative experience. As a leadership coach, I have been trained to be a highly effective and active listener. However, I think this experiment will teach me a great deal on the power of being present and still in service of others. I can’t wait to learn deeply through the process.

So, I am pleased to invite you on the journey with me. Let the listening experiment begin!

 

 

 

Embracing the Elephant in the Room

"Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it."  ~ Buddha

We've all heard the phrase 'there is an elephant in the room'. It's code for a difficult issue or significant problem that people don't feel comfortable talking about. It has a power and weight to it that can immobilize an organization or team. However, despite being unspoken the "elephant" issue is either consciously or unconsciously impacting relationships and the ability to get things done.

I believe we should learn to embrace the elephant in the room. Yes, it means that there is some force causing people to be uncomfortable and not talk about something. It's an energy that is big and unmovable. In fact, it could be something that is so sacred, fearful or important that no one wants to go near it. Isn't that usually a signal of something of vital importance that has to be courageously and respectfully explored?

Elephants as a species are powerful. They are very strong and they are gentle. They are loyal. They are patient. It is often said that elephants do not forget nor do they forgive. They are also associated with having great wisdom and compassion. They will fiercely protect what is important to them.

I would like to shift the perspective on elephants in the room. I believe that when the elephants emerge in team processes it's a signal of something transformative unfolding. It may be a bold change that is on the verge of happening. It could be a shift in dialogue that is becoming more open and honest; that the true essence of something important is being revealed. The elephant tension denotes vulnerability and diversity of opinion emerging.

Elephant energy can feel edgy. However, when we embrace it and explore it we can reveal important things that untended to will limit change, innovation or brave new visions from emerging. When we pause to honour the elephant, to name it and work with its energy, we are tapping into a wisdom force that needs to be honoured in order to move forward.

In my experience coaching teams, I often call out the elephant(s). I draw one on a flip chart and ask the team what it is. I playfully identify that the elephant(s) are in the room. I then ask people to pause and quietly reflect on what elephants are present and to write them on a post it note. Everyone gets to put them on the elephant. From there we group them by similar themes. This is a way of revealing the voices of the system; often the marginalized or unpopular ones.

Once we see the themes, we create conditions for people to talk about the elephants. It requires a tenderness and respect in  how people talk about them. I always ask about the elephant wisdom and how it is trying to serve at this time. We explore what is needed so that this wisdom can be considered as we go forward.

While it may be easier to ignore the elephants because they take energy to deal with, I find that when teams can talk about the elephants in a curious and supportive way they release energy that blocks them from true creative collaboration.  Acknowledging and processing the elephants can be a bonding process. It is a way of sharing history and story of an organization in a constructive manner. By speaking of the elephants some of their power is diminished. It frees up energy and opens awareness to what people want to see happen. Elephant exploration helps rewire the collective brains of the team so that new energy can be realized.

It is my wish that instead of ignoring or marginalizing the elephants in the room, that we embrace them and actively invite them into conversations. Only then can we access their wisdom so we can move forward together in more productive and positive ways.

We have much to learn from elephants. The following is a description of the attributes of elephants from a shamanistic perspective. May we embrace these qualities for the sake of healthy and vibrant team relationships and organizational cultures.

"Elephants can teach us that gentleness, commitment, and communication in relationships is very powerful and necessary to keep relationships alive, trusting and loving, whether it be friends, family or partner. Deeply committed to all creatures with whom they have relationships, elephants are tough when protecting others and gentle when nurturing them. The matriarch (the oldest, most experienced female leader of a herd) leads in a way that is both gentle and inclusive. Elephants are able to communicate telepathically. This can teach us how to truly listen to others."

http://www.shamanicjourney.com/elephant-power-animal-symbol-of-commitment-royalty-strength

 

Brain Dates

Brain Dates

Over the course of the C2 Conference I participated in a number of brain dates.  Brain Dates are a brilliant way of creating connection for idea sharing.  You put out offers of topics you are willing to share information about as well as topics you want to learn about.  You can search for topics that resonate and reach out to the person offering to request a meet up.  Brain Dates are 30 minutes of quick, passionate sharing and often end with a commitment to follow up and share further. 

The Power of "I Don't Know"

The Power of "I Don't Know"

Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, is one of my favourite thought leaders. This quote of his spurred me to reflect on both the power and vulnerability of standing in the place of "I don't know". "When we say what we don't know, it increases the likelihood that someone who does know will offer to help."

Listen versus Fix

Listen versus Fix

Half the challenge of communication is that it's not clear what people want or need from a conversation. Part of communication clarity is being able to ask for what you need. How often have you experienced someone venting to you about a challenge? Don’t you find that your natural instinct is to jump in and try and fix their problem? That’s not always what they need. Sometimes it’s the simple act of listening is all that's needed. 

Say It Don't Just Think It

Say It Don't Just Think It

I haven’t met a person yet who doesn't love to receive acknowledgement, thanks or appreciation. So if that is true, why is it so difficult to do? How often do you quietly, internally think positive thoughts about a colleague, friend or family member and yet hesitate saying something. My hunch is a lot. We humans are masters of assumptions. We assume that those we value the most intuitively know that we think highly of them and appreciate their efforts. Because of the work that I do as a coach, I have come to realize that the art of appreciation is a huge skill to cultivate in leaders.