Three “Simple” Steps to Real Listening …

“Everyone hears what you have to say.  Friends listen to what you say.  Best friends listen to what you don’t say.”


Ever had  a relationship where the other person understood what you were not saying?

… A relationship where silence was okay, because you were linked enough to not have to use words to convey your mood or siutation?

If “Yes”,  lucky you:)

Really listening to someone as active listening asks us to do, is hard work.

1)  Empty your mind

In other words, forget about what you want to say.   Minimize or eliminate distraction.   Just listen.

Never underestimate the power of focused attention to another person.

2)  Hear the words and the meaning behind them

Once you have emptied your mind of things that get in the way, you can concentrate on the words chosen to convey some message and the images that come from those words.

Words are not generic … each has a specific meaning, based on the person’s background, culture, and emotional state.  Pay attention and analyze what words they choose and the tone in which they use those words.

3)  Hear the silence and the words not chosen

This is the most difficult, but is also the source of the greatest insight.

Think about what was said and look for the missing pieces.  Try this:  

If you were talking about the topic, what would you include?

What did you expect to hear that you did not?

How congruent is their tone with their word choices?

Well, this is actually the easy part … once you hear the unspoken words and feel the underlying emotion, then you have to respond accordingly.

…. Tomorrow.

Trying to listen beyond the sounds in the Heartland ….


This Is My Life …

“My life is my message.

Mahatma Gandhi    Mahatma : Life of Gandhi 1869-1948 (1968) Reel 13    Response to a journalist’s question about what his message to the world was.

Sigh … I am already tired just thinking about trying to compare my life to that of Gandhi.  He’s ahead in the running, if you did not already know.

I recently made a fairly obvious pain of myself in a meeting.  The reasons  included some valid stress from the illness of a loved one and some rather immature jealousy of another person.

Whatever the reasons, my behavior was poor.  I was testy and somewhat confrontational, with a touch of “miffed” thrown in.

Whatever my reasons, what others saw was how I acted and how I interacted.

In the world of psychology, the term “incongruence” seems to fit this best.  My behaviors did not fit the image I have of myself.

I sense a clear and simple message here from Gandhi:

1)  What you do matters

Your actions are important, since they are the outward manifestation of what you believe important and worth your energy and time.

2) Others are aware of what you do 

Other may not know what you think or how you feel, but they can see what you do.  Your choices and decisions which result in action are there for others to see and judge.

3)  You will be remembered for what you do

Images make strong impressions.  What actions are you taking every day that will stick in people’s memories?

So the real question is this:

What message are your actions sending to others?

Trying to act in a more admirable fashion in the Heartland ….


I Worry About You …

“You’ll worry a lot less about what people think of you when you realize how little time anyone spends thinking of you.  They’re too busy with their own stuff.”

This was today’s Great Work Provocation.   These little gems appear regularly in my inbox and are never deleted without reading.  I will always make time to open any message from Box of Crayons,  because I can trust that value resides within.

I have never been disappointed or proven wrong in this belief.   Great Work Provocations are keepers.

The source of this ongoing stream of wisdom is  Michael Bungay Stanier, whose latest book is Do More Great Work.   When you visit his site, and you will want to do so, you’ll see much, much more good stuff being done with Michael providing the primary drive.

I have followed Michael’s work for years and can safely say that he is one of the most clear-headed, energetic, and thoughtful change agents and leadership guys out there.

… but don’t take my word for it.  I have obviously drank the Koolaid, as one unfortunate cliché goes.    

Spend a few minutes on Box of Crayons – I can promise that the time will be well spent, especially if you like creative, positive, and useful workplace learning and behavior advice, offered with just a dash of humor and whimsy:)

Loving this trusted source in the Heartland ….


Live By The Sword, Do You …?

“He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.”

Jesus Christ     The Bible, The Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 26, verse 52   From  The King James Version translation reads, “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword,” and was spoken to Peter.

It’s about choices and consequences, isn’t it?

Unless we become professional soldiers, most of us do not face this literal choice … at least, not directly.

In our personal lives, we do face choices that determine how we live.   Those choices in turn create actions, which result in outcomes.

… and easy to see, when we use the concept of a violent lifestyle.

… not as easy to see when we are talking about our more routine or even mundane choices of behavior and allegiance.

Here’s some other swords we might be choosing …

A belief that people are inherently lazy, except for me and a few select others.  

This results in management by fear and threats, or motivation based on your values and not those of the people you would motivate.  You also develop a really poor reputation with your fellow workers, which makes working together effectively almost impossible.

The attitude that only formal learning and education should be recognized as a sign of intelligence.  

If other ways of knowing are not recognized or valued, you lose the opportunity to learn in those ways, along with discounting those who do so, resulting in the loss of their contributions.  You have also doomed yourself to a lifelong “paper chase”, which often results in disappointment.

The assumption that competitive spirit is more valuable than compassion or collaboration.  

Viewing the world as “dog eat dog” results in constant vigilance, distrust, and relationships marked by score-keeping and combat.  This is one exhausting way to live, as well as making you prone to misjudgments and errors, as you misinterpret other’s words and actions.

The perception that what we know from the past is better than what we do not know of the future.  

The consequence of this is that we live anchored to the past, trying resurrect something that is no longer there, and miss what might be.  Traditions and history are to be valued, but not to govern.  Humans fear what they do not know, so this is natural to an extent.  When it makes us unable to move forward and thrive, it becomes unnatural.  

We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” as Aristotle so nicely puts it.   What we repeatedly do is based on our attitudes and assumptions, which carry consequences.

What perceptions affect your behavior and decisions?

Are you willing to live and die by them?

What “swords” should you put back their sheath?  What “swords” should you throw far, far away?

Staring at the blood from the cut on my hand from one of my “swords” in the Heartland ….


Winning Without Playing …

“It’s like declaring victory without entering the field of battle.”

Originally said in response to a description of a “manager” who refused to engage with those she managed.  Her style was to make broad and often inaccurate statements, then soar majestically away … no interaction, no discussion, and precious little reality base.

Can you relate to this?

Do you have examples of “drive-by” or oblivious management and leadership to share?

Wondering how some people manage to keep jobs in the Heartland …