Create A Culture of Listening

We’ve all been there – another meeting with the boss. It’s supposed to be a meeting of the minds but instead it’s a lecture with marching orders. The boss goes through his or her check list, asks for updates from all of you, interrupts when you’re updating, draws conclusions for you and gives marching orders until the next meeting. Isn’t that fun – no! Maybe this is the worst case scenario, but it plays out to varying degrees at company meetings every day. Smart leaders know that listening may be the single most important attribute to cultivate.
“When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds about him and what he is going to say.” — Abraham Lincoln. I like this article about listening and leadership. It’s a great summary of attributes leaders can cultivate to become better listeners.

Our team building activities are all about listening, about breaking down hierarchy. Musical team building is exciting because it’s creative team building and when we’re in a truly creative state of mind, hierarchies and pecking order don’t exist. There’s real back and forth, real brainstorming and real progress. Why? Because there’s real fun, and having fun together implies a mutuality – an equal footing – a back and forth dynamic. This is what we’re after when we want to create a culture of listening.

As part of my continuing series of DIY team building ideas, here’s something you can do yourself. Try it at your next meeting.

DIY Team Building – Learning to Listen

  • Pass out your meeting agenda
  • One of your team will announce the first agenda item and lead discussion about it. With each new agenda item, ask a different colleague to lead discussion about it. Don’t assign discussion items by areas of expertise. You don’t want ‘experts’ talking, you want to create a culture where questioning and back and forth dialogue happens.
  • Your boss’s role is to act as a consultant – one who listens and is there to answer questions only when needed.
  • Set a reasonable time for discussion of each agenda item.
  • Close by asking your boss to share what he ‘heard’. Was it informative for him or her?

To execute the above exercise you’ll need to shorten your agenda items, and not be as goal focused. Each item will generate more discussion than usual but you’ll discover more engagement for the tasks at hand and a greater sense of ownership by all. The meeting will truly be a meeting where problem solving occurs and ideas and tasks evolve. After all, why meet if it’s just to get a lecture. That’s a lecture, not a meeting.
“Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep.” Albert Camus.

Please let me know when you try this, and what your experience is. I’d love to hear your comments.

Billy Kirsch

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