Tag Archives: Coaching Camp

Be Present and Listen Deeply

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. Leaders who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” – Anonymous

Listening is a skill…and for most of us, it is underdeveloped.  When done well, listening is an active event, which leads to a greater understanding of your people, your process and your potential.  When done poorly, listening is a reductive exercise where information and data is cherry picked based on our previous experience, beliefs and biases.  In our Coaching Camp, we teach leaders the importance of listening deeply as a critical step in making an emotional connection with team members.  When a leader develops his / her ability to stay in the moment, they set the stage for a productive partnership where they can inspire team members to engage in continuous improvement and challenge them to grow.

The Japanese have an expression, “ichi go, ichi ei.”  Loosely translated, it means “one time, one meeting” and beautifully demonstrates the concept of listening deeply.  When two people meet in a traditional tea house, they are not allowed to discuss any topic other than their immediate surroundings and the elements of the tea ceremony (the tea, the house, the atmosphere, etc.)  The intent is to develop one’s ability to focus fully on the moment and not be distracted by anything else.  It is a discipline in “being present,” and allows the participants to learn to not only listen to what is being said, but more importantly, what is being communicated.

What effect can listening deeply and being present have on your results?

Risk van Baaren and his colleagues at the University of Nijmegen designed a simple experiment that demonstrated the power of listening deeply and connecting.  The team set up an experiment in a restaurant and asked a waitress to help them.  After seating the customers, she was instructed to take their order in one of two ways.  50% of the time she was to listen politely and then use positive phrases such as “okay” and “coming right up.”  The other 50% of the time, she was asked to repeat the order back to the customers.  The effect of demonstrating she had listened and understood their desires by repeating the customers words back to them was significant.  The customers who had heard their own words repeated left tips that were 70 % larger than those left by the other group.

As team members we all long to feel as if we add value to our organization and that our contribution is recognized by those who lead us.  As leaders, it is our responsibility to make each person feel valuable by removing roadblocks, making the best use of their abilities and listening deeply.  When people feel valuable they create a connection with the organization, each other and those who lead them.  Only when an emotional connection has been made, can you engage your team fully in the process of change and challenge them to reach their potential.


Teams Dig Scars

“Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory…lasts forever. “ – Shane Falco (The Replacements, 2000)

For those of you who have never seen The Replacements, Shane Falco (played by Keanu Reeves) is a former college quarterback whose last time on the football field resulted in a blown championship game.  Falco is given a second chance when a NFL strike forces owners to bring in replacement players to finish the season.  While the movie is forgettable, a speech delivered in the huddle speaks to both Falco’s ability to connect with his team as well as gives us a great maxim for leaders to live by: “pain heals, teams dig scars and accomplishment lasts forever.”

One of the principles we teach leaders in our Coaching CampTM is to “walk the talk.”  How each leader lives this principle may be different, but at it its core, walking the talk is about getting your hands dirty, taking risks, and demonstrating respect for your team through your actions rather than your words. Teams respect leaders who have spent time in the trenches and earned their stripes through hard work, determination and internal fortitude.  Contrary to what most “career leaders” believe, teams can tell in the first 15 minutes if you have “street cred.”  And while every team I have met longs to be led by someone they can trust, a team will only give you their trust if you demonstrate you are worthy of it through your actions.

Remember, “being a great leader is more about who you are than what you do, but teams look at what you do to determine who you are.”  To engage your team and connect them to your vision of the future, spend less time talking about improving processes and more time improving processes.  Work shoulder to shoulder with your team, making mistakes and getting scars of your own and resist the urge to make continuous improvement an intellectual exercise.  Not only will you develop a great base of experiences from which to pull, but your team will become a tighter, more cohesive unit that looks to your actions as a barometer of success.