I have a hard time seeing a problem and not trying to find a solution. It is as though my mind works in a different way, constantly filtering information towards a solution. I see a problem that needs to be solved and I go through the library card file in my mind to determine if there is a current solution, or if it is something that I need to bring others in to help solve. There are often problems that have an easy solution, and others that can be easily solved if you bring in your network of resources.
The problem with the way my mind works? Sometimes it is not my place to find the solution. Sometimes what I need to do is guide others to a solution. Take Chris for an example. He might share a problem with me and the last thing he wants me to do is try to solve it. He just wants me to listen. So I take my hands and sit on them, and listen. Or at least I try to. Deep down I am probably still trying to solve it, but keeping my mouth shut. Other times whether with colleagues or with friends, their problems again are not always ours to solve. We can make suggestions or ask questions, but we cannot always solve the actual problems.
As I write this I see how much better I could be at listening — to Chris, my colleagues, and friends. Coaching sometimes means asking questions such as: Have you thought about ______? Or, have you looked at the other side of the problem? Or, maybe even saying: Put yourself in their shoes, would you handle something differently? I know I can do better at listening, I can do better at formulating questions to get others to think more. Maybe that is part of going from managing to leading.
I love the spiral that sometimes happens when you start writing about one topic and have an “aha” moment that leads you to see a gap or a hole in your life that might be a good area to focus on. I could be better about being directive to solve each problem, and take a step back to allow those that have the problems to resolve them on their own. Listen more, ask questions, and reflect.
Little did I know as a kid that Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout was a hoarder, but somehow she scared me enough to take the garbage out. Even when taking the garbage out at our house meant opening up a peach colored wooden long trunk outside our maintenance shed that sometimes was home to raccoons. If you were not careful when you took the garbage out and you opened the lid you would see two eyes and grey, black, and white fur looking back at you. Who knew taking the garbage out was such a scary thing.
So when I was reminded the other day of the poem: “The Voice” by Shel Silverstein it brought back memories:
There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you–just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.
I only wish it was more popular to little children (girls especially). We all should teach kids early on how to listen to their own voice, so it does not take them so long to find it. It took me until I was in my early twenties in college. If I had parents, teachers, and family find unique ways to teach me that no one can decide what is right for me, I might have found that strong voice earlier.
Just as it might be hard for adults to continue to find their voice, it can be even harder for kids (but it does not have to be). We all need to listen more. We need to be quiet more. The voice inside you is there.
How often do you formulate what you are going to say while someone else is talking? How often do you truly listen to what the other individual is saying to you? How often do you check out, get bored, or have too many other things going on in your brain? I am definitely known to have way to much going on in my brain, to the extent that sometimes the words that come out of my mouth sound like babble and do not make sense to others. Maybe it is information overload.
We all could listen more, but we can also talk less. They go hand in hand. It makes me ask the questions: “Do you listen to get to the next part of your day, do you truly care when listening, and do you talk to talk and be heard, or because you have something to say? Sometimes I think that some people talk to fill the open space. They are uncomfortable with silence, and quiet moments, so they do what they can to fill that silence, to fill that space. However awkward it might be, for them and everyone else.
Here is a thought (not grand, or new, or cutting edge). What if you listen more? Truly and intensely listen. Ask questions. Explore if you truly understand what someone else is saying and take the focus off you. Hard? Yes. Worth it? Yes. I care about each individual I interact with and I want them to feel that care. I genuinely want to listen, and I want others to give me the same respect and focus. Is that so hard? Are we asking each other to do too much? Hell no. We just need to get rid of our brainless distractions and “be” with another. Listen, go deep, be present, and get rid of mindless chatter, pointless conversation, and focus on what really matters.
I am going to make it a focus to keep working on how I listen. Let my mind slow down from all the elements of multitasking, breathe, and be in the moment where I truly focus on the other individual and give them my time.
The first day of school. It always had a degree of dread and a degree of excitement. What was my teacher going to be like? What would it be like to see and reconnect with different friends? How had people changed over the summer? How would we all fit together in this new year and new adventure?
The first day of school is very much like the first day of a new job. You may have no idea what your world is going to be like. While the job might be similar to your last role, the people, the leadership, and the team dynamics can make your day-to-day light years different. It is good for us to have these moments of change, newness and growth. That does not mean, however, that it is easy or that being the newbie comes naturally to any of us.
Just like the first day of school is like the first day of a new job, the bullying and politics that happen in school happen in the professional world. Individuals have agendas, sometimes you get picked first and sometimes you get picked last. There is competition, and sometimes that means that those you thought had your back, really do not. The only difference between school and a job, is being a kid and being an adult. Somehow we are all learning more about ourselves. What we are willing to stand up for and what makes us keep our mouth shut.
Since the school year is about to start, what are you going to do differently? Just because you might be in the same job for the last year or years does not mean you have to be stuck in a rut. Think of August as your new year. Who are you going to befriend or be less afraid of? Who are you going to stand up to? Get out your Trapper Keeper and start doodling. Come up with three ways you are going to change. Mine are:
_Listen more, talk less
What will yours be? Trapper Keeper, iPad, or old-school typewriter… make a note and decide: What are you going to stand for?
Sometimes short and sweet makes an idea stick. I have been thinking about my actions and the actions of others. So often we are let down because of what others tell us they are going to do, and then they let us down. Maybe they do not follow through with what they told us they would do, (you know when it is just lip service). Or maybe it is the complete opposite, maybe they do not talk often but they show you their true being by what they did (or did not do). A recent blog post from Seth Godin, that was short and sweet really made me think:
“Two ways to listen
You can listen to what people say, sure.
But you will be far more effective if you listen to what people do.”
What if we started talking less (I am the first to say I need to do this) and watch our actions more? Does what we do matter more than what we say? Does showing someone we love them stick more than saying the words: “I love you”?
Do we really listen to what people do? What someone does shows intent and often leaves a lasting impact where words can sometimes be forgotten. It does not mean that words are completely lost, but what you experience with another is often hard to forget. It is why the phase: “actions speak louder than words” is so common to say, but do we often think about that when we take action? Probably not, but we should.
Listening to what people do is also an act of patience, so is listening to what people say. Listening to what people do just takes more conscious effort. When someone is standing before you there is more of an obligation to focus on them, make eye contact, and give them your time as you listen to them talk. There is no obligation to listen to what people do. That takes another layer of effort and care. You probably listen more to someone’s actions when you feel you have been wronged, but do you listen when they do something good? My hunch is that we all can do better to share our gratitude for others when we listen and see the good they have brought to our life.
Here is to a week of more active listening. Thank you, Seth.