I’m confident that you would have experienced being in a conversation with someone, and you get a sense that they aren't really paying attention to you, maybe it’s not a sense, maybe its downright obvious that their attention has been hijacked. You notice their eyes not meeting yours, they’re checking a device, or their attention span has been shortened from device overuse. They may randomly comment but what they say is totally irrelevant to the thread of the conversation. Personally, I find this not only frustrating, but it quickly dials down my respect and trust in the other person.
By no means am I always an active listener angel, I notice my ability to pay attention diminishes when I am tired, stressed out or preoccupied with a project. I assume this may be the case for you too. What I have come to understand over time is that listening, like any other skill, can be improved and more importantly, our ears, eyes and for some of us our highly tuned empathic sensing provides a direct link to our hidden modes of communication.
There is something magical about being fully heard by another human. When we share ideas and experiences unencumbered by judgement or having someone want to solve our problems we feel liberated and connected. The shared space creates a deep connection with the other person increasing mutual trust, respect and sometimes a feeling of catharsis.
One of the biggest challenges in personal and professional relationships is creating space for effective two-way communication to occur. We need to manage both our internal and external environments effectively in order to do this.
Manage your External Environment to connect deeply.
One of the things I love to do is catch up with friends, not over a coffee, but for a walk-in nature. There are a number of reasons for this, the first being I love being in nature and all the benefits it brings, and secondly to create a space for undisturbed connection, nature has fewer background distractions that are often found in a café, no dobt you’ve experienced the clanging of coffee machines, conversations nearby reverberating off the tables, walls and floors, and the constant interruption of a staff member asking if the meal or coffee was ok.
Consciously choosing where you meet, or talk is a great start, then removing any distractions is always helpful. If you’re at home, put the TV on mute, or turn it off, put your phone on silent and pop it away and out of sight and for those of you with smart watches, there is nothing more frustrating than having a conversation with someone who repeatedly lifts their wrist to check notifications or interrupts the conversation to share that their watch was telling them that mum’s calling, but they won’t answer it. So, maybe turn of your vibrating notifications too.
When we converse over the phone or online, the same rules of deep engagement apply. Although you may not be in the same physical location, you can still be 100% present. Do your best to dial in from a location with as little distraction as possible away from pets, partners and children, turn off notifications and close down any other apps. When you do this your focused attention on the conversation will pay huge dividends for yourself and the relationship.
When scheduling time to be with another human be sure to use the time to be fully present for each other and allow for the natural flow of the conversation to take you to a place where nothing else exists, there’s no time, no one else and nothing else matters.
Notice your Internal Environment to be fully present.
When dealing with other people being able to share your thoughts and wishes effectively is a something most of us can do with some level of success. But we also have to be open to what others have to say. The most important aspect of creating and nurturing relationships begins with active listening. Active listening is an inside job and can be a challenge to master.
Most people confuse hearing with listening. This can lead to misunderstandings, arguments and frustration for both parties. If you are the one needing to be heard, and you’re not, you may end up lowering your respect levels and trust for the person you are with. We can't control other people’s actions or how they listen to us, however we can set boundaries or rules of engagement if someone is continually distracted when they are in our presence. (we’ll cover how to set boundaries in another article)
Active listening is an inside job, it requires awareness, curiosity and compassion. Often when communicating, our inbuilt filtering system prevents us from really hearing the other person. Our beliefs create confirmation bias, our assumptions cause misunderstanding, our predetermined judgements about a person or situation may stir up a perceptual defence and our emotional state may lead to us to only hearing what we want to hear.
We often think that it takes courage and confidence to share our deepest thoughts and to be heard, and it does, but it also takes awareness, courage and confidence to shut up and listen.
Become a great listener
Active listening is a skill any one can learn (and most of us need plenty of practice) Active listening will become your go to tool once you discover its power to improve personal and professional relationships. If you don't invest in becoming better at active listening, you will unconsciously discount other people’s perspective, ideas and experiences and they in turn will become emotionally distant (not a great thing in an intimate relationship) and they will no longer want to contribute to conversations or provide creative ideas (Impacting the progress of a business)
Active listening basics
The aim of Active Listening is to build respect, gather information, expand our perspective and increase understanding. In a world of constant distractions where our attention span has become less than that of a goldfish perhaps we can borrow a line from Mark Anthony’s request for attention in the play Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare. Where he announces “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears"
It takes attention, focus and the willingness to accept what is being expressed without judgement. Can we lend our ears and eyes 100% to the person attempting to communicate with us?
Here are 5 tips to help you become an Active Listener Angel.
1. Pay Attention
2. Show You're Listening
3. Compassionate Curiosity
4. Defer Judgment
5. Respond Respectfully
Active listening is one of the many communication tools we can use to build trustworthy relationships. Make time to listen to the people that matter in your life, it doesn’t make sense to be too busy to listen to someone else's story, opinion, idea or point of view. Listening is a beautiful gift of our most precious resource ‘time’ that we can give to others allowing humanity to thrive and grow together!
p.s remember to have some fun!
Contributed by: Georgia Ellis
I know it's hard right now balancing commercial goals with the well-being and growth of your people and somehow you did it! It is an absolute honour to work with business leaders and decision makers who not only realise that that their people must come first, above the customer and the shareholder, but they take inspired action towards making it a reality for their organisation.
I often wonder how many organisations expect their tired, wired and depleted team to show up and be the best for each other and their customers, especially when they have not been able to invest in themselves first. How can a person truly connect, influence and shine for a business if at first, they can't shine for themselves?
I love the challenge of working with you to help you serve your people in a way that has never been done before. I love that you knew there was a better and different way to invest in your team and when we shared our approach it resonated deeply with you, and you took immediate action to get started. I now realise you had been searching for unique and proven ways to serve your people and the business at the same time, and here we are :)
I love that you generously invest in your people’s personal growth, professional development and wellbeing, to help them thrive in life so that in their thriving your workplace becomes a hive of positive and profitable activity.
I admire the work you do and your bigger vision as a business to truly make the world a better place with your products and services. Instead of playing the short and finite game, your organisation plays the long and infinite game where everyone wins including your customers, clients, team members, shareholders, stakeholders, vendors and the world we share.
I am forever grateful that you found us and that we have worked together to create solutions to meet your unique needs. It is a delight working with you all, most importantly and above all, we love your team, your leaders and all the people who participate in our programs, they show up, play full out and in doing so they become better humans. Together your organisation gets to meet your goals and Blue Chip Minds gets to meet ours.
I admire that you listened to that deeper knowing that went against convention, you sensed
and truly believed that you have to, need to, and want to do more for your people. Your commitment to building self-awareness, helping people think differently and providing a wider lens for them to see challenges in a new light and providing them with the tools to thrive… not just at work…. but in life, is a massive paradigm shift as to how organisations approached their workforce in the past. It’s because of you that I have faith in the future of humanity and big business.
Your leaders have shown that they are ready to lead in a multidimensional way and now they have the tools to do it, helping your organisation to become a human centered commercially minded workforce.
I can’t say I’ve ever felt this way about a business client, and not sure if it’s good for business to say this out loud, but to hell with convention right! I have to say it.
I Love You!
I'm thankful that we are aligned and our work together is profitable and beneficial for everyone! Thank you for reaching out. Thank you for being a modern-day Robin Hood and showing up for your people.
Thank you for caring - together we can help to make the world a better place.
Georgia + The BCM Team.
One simple, affordable and effective way to cultivate a High-Performance culture and team.
Contributor: Maurice Schill (Founder & CEO of JuJu)
The appeal of High-Performance Teams (HPTs) has never been higher. Especially in our highly competitive world where the competitive edge now comes from how well teams can work together.
Big companies like Google spend millions of dollars on programs, training and experts to help their teams access the highest performance levels. Then they spend millions more on designing environments best suited to HPTs.
These companies continue to hire the best, retain the best and get the best out of their teams. Better results, better products, more innovation and higher profit margins, which all lead to…
You guessed it, even more money for them to spend on developing their teams and environments.
This is leading to an ever-growing gap, making it harder for small and medium businesses to find a competitive edge when it comes to their people.
It's fully understandable that this can be a little disheartening. However, not all hope is lost.
The truth is you don't need millions of dollars, sleeping pods, ping pong tables or free lunches to get the most out of your team. Most of these are actually just gimmicks or PR stunts.
According to separate research conducted by Gallup, BCG, and OCTanner, it turns out that what matters most to people is who they work with, and how appreciated they feel.
Leveraging this insight, small and medium businesses can regain their upper footing by investing in the relationships that exist within their teams. The good news? It doesn't require a large coin purse.
Although there a many things businesses can do to improve the strength of relationships at work, there is one specific approach that is often overlooked.
Why appreciation is essential to cultivating HPTs
It's all based on human psychology. One of our deepest, most ingrained desires is to be appreciated and valued. It helps us feel like we belong, and that what we do matters.
When people are appreciated they show the best versions of themselves, are more resilient to stress, and more likely to go above and beyond for others. All of these factors are important drivers for creating High-Performance Teams.
Appreciation is also a form of feedback that reinforces good behaviours. When done correctly it can help create a small and constructive feedback loop, essential in cultivating a High-Performance Team.
How you can effectively appreciate your team
Although a thank you is a good start, it won't deliver the expected results.
There are 4 behaviours to effective appreciation you must apply.
1. Be Genuine
We have an uncanny ability to sense when people are not being real with us. When we express appreciation from a place where we don't really mean it, we actually do more harm than good.
It builds distrust in the relationships.
Properly expressing appreciation means we have to make the other person believe that we mean it.
When you say "thank you" to someone for a job well done you leave a lot of room for misinterpretation.
The solution: Tell them why their action or words meant something to you. How did it change or impact you?
Use this formula to ensure you express appreciation genuinely:
By going through this exercise you also force yourself to find a reason you actually appreciate that person
2. Get Specific
The more detailed you can get in your expression of appreciation the more meaning it has. You want them to know exactly what it is you appreciated. So focus on being clear and precise.
If you tell them...
"Thank you so much for that great presentation, it really helped me get clarity on what I need to do next."
... they may believe it's genuine, but won't know the details of how their actions helped you. Therefore it has no meaningful context.
To get specific ask yourself:
It may be something like this:
"Thank you for that great presentation, I really enjoyed how you broke down our complex marketing strategy into easy to follow steps. It really clarified what I need to do to make sure our new website fits with the overarching strategy."
Now, they believe you, know exactly what they did well, and how it impacted you positively.
When expressed like this, appreciation is much more potent as it helps connect their reality with the impact they've had on other people - which in turn creates meaning in their life.
Yes, it takes a bit longer and might take 2 minutes to write out instead of 10 seconds, but the impact is so much greater.
3. Tailor Your Approach
Every person has their own preference around how they like to be appreciated. In fact, there are 5 languages of appreciation you can use.
Knowing what your team's preference is, makes a huge difference. When you use the wrong preference it may be that the person doesn't even recognise that you are trying to appreciate them. So, all your efforts have gone to waste.
Here are a couple of examples:
Being aware of what these preferences are within your team will make a huge difference to them and how likely they are to perform at the highest possible level.
Here is a tip: We tend to express our appreciation the way we would like to receive it. Pay attention to how others are expressing their appreciation, which will give you an indicator of what they might like.
4. Be Timely
Lastly, and just as important as the last 3 behaviours, you have to express your appreciation for what they did in an appropriate time frame.
I recommend trying to keep it within 24 hours, however, this is not always feasible. Make sure to do it ASAP.
Waiting until your next meeting or catch-up might be too late. You have to let them know when it's still fresh in their mind.
As humans, we are wired for instant feedback and gratification. The longer you wait, the less rewarding it becomes for them.
Go out and try it!
When you start applying these four behaviours in how you communicate appreciation, you won't just become a better communicator and leader, but will also inspire and educate your team by proxy to engage in similar behaviours.
The first couple of times might feel a bit weird to you. That is simply because you are not used to it. Remember, it's not about you, it's about making the other person feel valued.
So, now it's your time to apply this.
Our Contributors are a mix of passionate and switched on Humans ready to share their, career, business, well-being, leadership and performance insights with you so you can be the architect of your own extraordinary future!