Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
In the book Multipliers, by Liz Wiseman, she writes about how Diminishers ask questions to prove their points and not to gain insight. They fill the void with explanations and justifications of their ideas instead of listening to truly understand others.
As I was reflecting on this section of the book, I realized that this is a common occurrence where I work, but also, something I engage in on a regular basis. I quickly realized there are some other common reactions to receiving feedback that are not always helpful.
You know this feeling well. You can feel the heat rising, you know your cheeks are getting a little flushed and you want to lash out and explain all this person’s faults. You want to talk about your past success and turn it back on the person providing you feedback. I had this experience just this week when I was provided some feedback on a way to improve the way I present updates in the monthly report. While I may be justified in my feeling that this person should not be throwing stones when they clearly live in a glass house, it doesn’t mean the advice or feedback they gave me is wrong. It was still valid.
This is another common reaction to feedback. One that I have found often in leadership settings when they receive feedback from surveys or Q&A sessions. Instead of listening to the intent or questioning deeper into their perspectives, they immediately justify and explain away the question as someone who just doesn’t understand or that they are looking at too narrow of a picture. Several years ago, the engineering group in my organization saw a drop in their engagement score. We could have easily justified it as to the workload, or the nature of the projects but instead, the Director decided to dig in deeper, ask questions and seek to understand. He quickly realized that there was a level of frustration because we had limited the travel budget in his group, and they were not able to attend conferences and present papers. We quickly made an adjustment to the budget and created a schedule and the following year, the score jumped significantly to lead the company. Instead of justifying a response, the leader chose to listen, seek clarity and then act.
Let’s Talk About Me
This may be the biggest challenge for me! I am a talker who loves to tell stories. “Hey that reminds me…” or “I know what you mean, one time ….” Those that know me are probably shaking your head as you read this - either in amusement or possibly uttering a few choice words under your breath! In Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott advises, “Don’t take the conversation away from others and fill the air with your stories.” Yep, this was a gut punch for me.
Let Me Repeat Myself
When someone challenges or provides feedback, my initial reaction is to provide additional clarity by repeating myself - maybe a little slower and a little louder - to make sure they heard me the first time.
This is one of my pet peeves. People repeat themselves as if I must not have heard the brilliance of what they said or am not of significantly adequate intellect to fully comprehend what they said. When in reality, I am struggling with how they came to the conclusion that this was a good idea.
The irony is that this is always my first response. When someone provides feedback to me. “Oh, I must not have been clear.” or “Let me say it this way.” Too often I am focused on me and my position rather than on the position of the other person. I am not engaged and locked in to receive their feedback. I heard them, but I did not listen to them.
Hearing vs Listening
There is definitely a difference between hearing someone and listening to someone. I consider hearing as an event. It typically is outside your control.
One of my favorite parts of Susan Scott’s book, Fierce Conversations, is when she talks about the power of listening and how it is critical to have a successful conversation. She says this about the power of listening: “It’s not enough to hear the words - that is only the beginning. But do you hear the fears, intentions and aspirations?” When you can engage in a conversation so deeply that the feelings and intentions are able to come forth from their words, then you are truly listening. She goes on to talk about how “intent is the scaffolding on which a story hangs.” I found this a great visual on why getting to the intent of a discussion and not just the surface talk is so important.
Engaging, being present and hearing for intention are ways to move you from hearing feedback to listening to feedback. Listening with intent will grow the conversation and increase your ability to impact others so people will continue to engage you Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.