Listening WITH or Listening FOR

Have you ever felt someone was talking to you not with you? I was trying to sell my apartment a few weeks ago so I had many meetings with real estate agents. I remember sitting in some of these appointments and after a few minutes thinking to myself – “this guy is not talking with me – he is talking to me”. The guy went on and on about how great his agency is, about their system and its benefits etc. he did not start by asking me what I need. He did not notice that I understood the point he was making after the first minute and kept boring me for ten more minutes. He was so in his own world that there was no way I was going to connect with him on any level – personal or professional. In a profession that is built on trust, his lack of attention to me truly amazed me.

The whole situation reminded me of how Edgar Schien defined one of the main problems with helping in his book Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help (I wrote about this wonderful paragraph in the past):

The trap for the helper is to move too rapidly to solutions, to provide advice or guidance on the hypothetical problem and, thereby, cut off the opportunity to learn what the real problem might be. Working the hypothetical problem does little to equilibrate the relationship.

Then I was watching the above TED talk by Julian Treasure and heard this:

Ears are made not for hearing, but for listening. Listening is an active skill. Whereas hearing is passive, listening is something that we have to work at. It’s a relationship with sound. And yet it’s a skill that none of us are taught. For example, have you ever considered that there are listening positions, places you can listen from? Here are two of them. Reductive listening is listening “for.” It reduces everything down to what’s relevant, and it discards everything that’s not relevant. Men typically listen reductively. So he’s saying, “I’ve got this problem.” He’s saying, “Here’s your solution. Thanks very much. Next.” That’s the way we talk, right guys? Expansive listening, on the other hand, is listening “with,” not listening “for.” It’s got no destination in mind. It’s just enjoying the journey. Women typically listen expansively. If you look at these two, eye contact, facing each other, possibly both talking at the same time. Men, if you get nothing else out of this talk, practice expansive listening, and you can transform your relationships.

I love the idea that “Listening is an active skill”. It reminds us that it doesn’t just happen. It requires work. It requires as to be present and attentive. It is a skill one can develop.

I think it goes both ways. In professions that are based on relationships, and management is all about relationships, I think developing the ability to talk with and listen with is crucial

So my question is – are you talking to or with someone? Are you listening with or for?

Elad

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Re-recruiting employees

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Adam Bryant conducted an interview with Linda Heasley, president and chief executive of The Limited, and published it on The New York Times. Interesting interview overall and I loved this quote:

Q. And what’s your philosophy of leadership?

A. I believe that it’s not about me. I believe it’s very much about the team. I believe that my associates can work anywhere they want, and my job is to re-recruit them every day and give them a reason to choose to work for us and for me as opposed to anybody else.

So it’s about making it fun. It’s about making it exciting. It’s about keeping them marketable. I encourage people: “Go out and find out what the market bears. You should do that and then come back and help me figure out what you need in your development that you’re not getting, because we owe you that.”

Usually managers, consciously or unconsciously believe that everybody working with them should be thankful. That going out looking for alternatives is a kind of betrayal. I wrote in the past on the tendency of managers to look at the people working with them as serfs. If you are the king, everybody needs to be loyal to you. But just like the best kings in the fairy tales, the best managers understand, that the power of a manager comes not from fear and blind loyalty, but from giving, trusting and serving others. The manager is the serf and not the other way around.

Bruce Temkin wrote about the same quote from this interview in his blog:

This is the right attitude. Every manager should take on the personal responsibility of making their team members continuously chose to be on their team. Often times, that means preparing them with skills to leave the team… or to leave the company. When you can no longer re-recruit someone, it’s probably time for him/her to leave.

I agree. By treating employees like partners and not like subordinates we let go of the fear and enjoy the benefits of trust and human connection. Yes, some will leave. Yes, some will take advantage of you. But most won’t. Most will revel in the trust you put in them and will reach levels of performance unparalleled because you, as a manger, are there to make sure that they have what they need and because you both know that they are there as a result of a choice.

Elad

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Helping as an overreaching concept

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I am reading Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help, by Edgar H. Schein (a book I wrote about in the past). An interesting quote:

… helping is intrinsic to all forms of organizations and work, because, by definition, we organize because we cannot do the whole job ourselves. Hired help truly refers not only to servants and caretakers, but applies equally to all organizational employees hired to do specific job that we cannot do ourselves. Fulfilling one’s duties in a job is, therefore, also a routine way in which we help.

I find this perspective brilliant.

When you go to work every day, do you ask yourselves – who am I helping today? When you explain to an employee what do you expect of him, do you phrase it in a way that makes him understand who and how is he helping? When you are trying to convey to your team a sense of purpose, do you focus on the help the team is giving to someone else – customers, employees, management?

More than everything, looking at our work as a continuum of helping means that we approach work with an attitude of partnership where everybody is focused on the relationships.

Is my writing helpful? How are you going to use it to help others?

Elad

Helping as an overreaching concept

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I am reading Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help, by Edgar H. Schein (which I wrote about in the past once). An interesting quote:

… helping is intrinsic to all forms of organizations and work, because, by definition, we organize because we cannot do the whole job ourselves. Hired help truly refers not only to servants and caretakers, but applies equally to all organizational employees hired to do specific job that we cannot do ourselves. Fulfilling one’s duties in a job is, therefore, also a routine way in which we help

I find this perspective brilliant.

When you go to work every day, do you ask yourselves – who am I helping today? When you explain to an employee what do you except of him, do you phrase it in a way that makes him understand who is he helping? When you are trying to convey to your team a sense of purpose, do you focus on the help you are giving to someone else – customers, employees, management?

More than everything, looking at our work as a continuum of helping means that we approach work with an attitude of partnership where everybody is focused on the relationships.

Is my writing helpful? How are you going to use it to help others?

Elad

Edgar Schein, help, partnership, relationship, purpose

Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help<img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=thecompaadvan-20&l=as2&o=1&a=157675863X&#8221; width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

Language matters!

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A few weeks back I wrote a post about the language we use in management. Describing a post in HBR.org giving advice to leaders and managers I complained:

Just look at the language. I, the little employee, need you, the big boss, to take control. I cannot excite myself. I need you, my liege, to get me excited. I want you, my monarch, to impress me and set me up to win. You are on top. I am in the bottom waiting for your holiness to give me some autonomy.

Really? Are you serious? Has it turned 1900 and I haven’t noticed? Or maybe more like the 1200?

Language and words matter. They affect our thinking and more importantly our behavior. I was thinking about this issue while reading Tom Peters’ blog post about helping. He describes Edgar Schein’s new book Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help and some of the principles described in it. This is one of them:

PRINCIPLE 2: Effective Help Occurs When the Helping Relationship Is Perceived to Be Equitable.

In the comments to that post, you find a comment by Schein himself explaining what this principle means:

The reason a helping relationship has to be equitable is that all relationships work best when each party feels he or she is getting something out of it, not necessarily the same thing.

Peters is fond of saying, and I have taken after him, that one of the most important roles of managers is to help employees, or take hurdles out of their way (or as he calls it: Boss as CHRO—Chief Hurdle Removal Officer – see #125 here). I think Schein’s perspective completes that. It is not just help, it is equitable help. It is help that comes out of partnership and not out of hierarchy and control.

Language matters.

Elad

Some management advice – treat your employees like serfs!

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I was reading a post called Eight Things Your Employees Want from You by Melissa Raffoni on the HBR.org blog. Here is the list:

1. Tell me my role, tell me what to do, and give me the rules.
2. Discipline my coworker who is out of line.
3. Get me excited.
4. Don’t forget to praise me.
5. Don’t scare me.
6. Impress me.
7. Give me some autonomy.
8. Set me up to win.

I could not disagree more.

Just look at the language. I, the little employee, need you, the big boss, to take control. I cannot excite myself. I need you, my liege, to get me excited. I want you, my monarch, to impress me and set me up to win. You are on top. I am in the bottom waiting for your holiness to give me some autonomy.

Really? Are you serious? Has it turned 1900 and I haven’t noticed? Or maybe more like the 1200?

Why instead won’t we treat employees like human beings? Like partners? Like people with different wants, needs, talents and strengths. Human beings that work with us for a common goal and that sometimes need our help, but that can help and teach us just the same. Human beings who thrive on actual autonomy (not one that is given – what are we – salves?), that want mastery and look for and develop a sense of purpose. Human beings who are smart and capable of showing practical wisdom and are shackled by all the rules and mechanisms of control the “managerial monarchy” levis on them.

I don’t have a problem with some of the behaviors Raffoni espouses (even though, number one really troubles me). You know what, I guess they probably work. I have a problem with the underlying assumptions. Just because something works, does not make it right. Employees are not cogs. They are not jackasses. And they are not serfs.

Wouldn’t you want to be treated like a human being? Are you treating your employees like serfs?

Elad

Are you worthy?

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Dale Breckenridge Carnegie wrote in 1905 (!) the following paragraph in the introduction to his book, The Art of Public Speaking:

Training in public speaking is not a matter of externals – primarily; it is not a matter of imitation – fundamentally; it is not a matter of conformity to standards – at all.  Public speaking is public utterance, public issuance, of the man himself; therefore the first thing both in time and in importance is that the man should be and think and feel things that are worthy of being given forth.

Isn’t this something that should be always true? Yes, the externals – visuals, speaking tools, metaphors – are all important. However, in the end, it boils down to the question – is what I am saying worthy? When you next go to give a presentation – ask yourself – what do I have to say? And I know what you are going to tell me. “I am going to talk about something boring and banal; there is nothing for me to ‘say’ in it”. And my answer –if there isn’t don’t talk.

If you can’t find the passion inside, the understanding of how you are making a difference, some kind of difference, small as it may be, in somebody’s life by giving this next presentation, don’t present. The title of Carnegie’s books includes the word art – and I would like to think of it as Art in the way Seth Godin thinks about Art in his new book Linchpin. There are many painters but there are only a limited number of artists who paint. There are many speakers, but there are only a limited number of people who deal in the Art of public speaking.

I will take this idea one step further. If you are a manager, this applies to your everyday work life too. When you wake up tomorrow morning and go to your office, what kind of mind set do you bring with you to the office? Are you doing things that are worthy? Do you feel that you have something to give, something of importance, that you are changing your employees’ lives?  What kind of passion do you bring to your partnership with them? Dan Pink tells us to ask ourselves two questions every morning. I think there is only one. Are you worthy?

Elad