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That Time I Decided to Just Listen…

(Unsplash photo by Hans-Peter Gauster)

Once upon a time, I was fixing to get ready to walk into a leadership team-building workshop. While improving the team had sorta been my idea, past retreats hadn’t gone too well. They all seemed to focus on why I wasn’t like everybody else and I decided I wasn’t doing that again.

Before leaving home that morning, I wrote in my journal. The basic idea is to clear my head, empty my thoughts onto paper, and contemplate what I want to do that day. I always start with the date, followed by the name of a song that’s reverberating in my head. This day I chose a Eddie Harris song called “Listen Here!”

In keeping with the theme, I wrote myself the following instructions:

Listen
Ask questions
Be curious
Ask humble questions
Listen
Summarize
Synthesize
Pass
Say “I don’t know.”
“Let me think about that.”
Speak the kind truth? Nah!!
Observe
Shut up!
Listen!

### How’d That Work?

I thought the day was going well until my boss approached me during our lunch break.

“Bill, are you okay?”
“Sure. Why do you ask?
“Well, you haven’t said anything all morning, and that’s not like you!”
“Oh, I’m fine. I’ve just been listening. Taking it all in.”

You see, I’d forgotten to actually participate in the conversation. While I didn’t want to provide my colleagues ammunition they could use to attack me, I also didn’t want that to be noticeable. So I chimed-in more the rest of the day.

Message From Above?

During the afternoon session, a buzz from my watch notified me that a new Harvard Business Review “Ideacast” had been downloaded to my iPhone. The title? “Become a Better Listener!” Surely this was a message from on-high that, despite my faux pas, I was on the right track.

In the next day or two, I listened to the podcast. It featured an interview with Mark Goulston about his book, Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone. I read the book.

Goulston’s book was published by the American Management Association, and they offered a class based on Just Listen. I took the class.

The podcast, book, and training were all excellent. Goulston’s work featured a deep-dive into brain science to help explain how and why we respond to stimuli the way we do. The book and class also provided practical tips for handling different situations we face and to improve our ability to listen.

A Journey Begins

I ended up taking four AMA seminars over the next year:

  • Just Listen!
  • The Voice of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire, Influence and Achieve Results
  • Leading with Emotional Intelligence
  • Transformational Leadership: How to Inspire Extraordinary Performance

I learned a lot in each class. I was clearly searching for something, and, I’m pretty sure I found it!

More on that in a future episode…

Lessons Learned?

What questions do you have?