Valentine’s Day:Understanding Expectations

Valentine’s Day is packed with a punch – understanding expectations – and for many these expectations are misunderstood, not met, and lead to disappointment.. Continue reading

3 Habits to Fulfilling Your New Year’s Resolutions

Here are 3 habits to help you discover what you want to commit to rather than telling yourself what you want to resolve to do. See the difference? Researchers are finding that using this approach creates a change in behavior that can last up to one year.. Continue reading

5 Choices of Listening: Intentional Leaders Choose Wisely

Ever wondered how your listening is affecting your leadership? We recently published an article in Huffington Post Business: 5 Choices of Listening: Intentional Leaders Choose Wisely.  Read it below or find the original post directly on Huffington Post here.

5 Choices of Listening: Intentional Leaders Choose Wisely

It is no secret that effective leadership requires strong listening skills. However, most of us are never taught how to listen to understand. As leaders, we focus on how well we speak and good listening becomes assumption, a skill most of us take for granted and believe we do well. Spoiler alert: We don’t!

Think about it – how often have you tuned someone out when they are talking to you? You see their lips move yet you are not connecting with the words they are saying, waiting for their lips to stop moving so you can jump in with the ideas you want to talk about or give solutions to problems you want to fix or solve. As a result, we miss out on what is being said and solve or fix “problems” that often don’t exist, shut down new possibilities or opportunities, and disengage team members along the way. As leaders, understanding your teams, clients and colleagues is business 101. You can’t understand others if you don’t intentionally listen to them. The good news is we are all born with the ability to actively listen, when we CHOOSE to do so.

The Five Listening Choices we always have
If we want to understand the perspectives of others, to be respectful of them, we need to intentionally choose how we listen to them. When we are fully present in the moment, ABSORBing what is being said to us, we can choose how we listen. Rather than simply two listening choices of listening or not, we believe we actually have five listening choices whenever we are in conversation with another person. These choices result in how we receive and process the information being provided.

Listening Choice 1: Ignore the Speaker
In Choice 1, we choose not to listen to the speaker. We may hear noise, but rather than paying attention to the words, we are focused on other things, compiling a to-do list, thinking about a plan for later, reading e-mails/social media posts, or waiting for the speaker to be silent so we can jump in, change the subject to speak about what we want to speak about. In short, we are not present, and we are not paying attention.

Listening Choice 2: Focus on Me
In Choice 2, we choose to pay attention to the speaker through the lens of the gremlin, or that inner critic inside our head, which compares the perspective of the speaker with our own and judges the speaker in the context of us. Like Choice 1, Choice 2 gives us no opportunity to be curious, as our thoughts are focused on our needs rather than those of the speaker. Here’s what Choice 2 might look like in a conversation with a leader:

Speaker: “I am going to have to work this weekend because I have so much work to do.”
Leader Listener thinks:  I haven’t given her that much work to do. I guess she is really slow at completing her work.

The comment is heard in a way that is judging in the context of the listener.
Choice 2 response sounds like “I don’t see how that is possible, I haven’t given you that much work.”

Listening Choice 3: Focus on You
In Choice 3, as the listener, we pay attention to the speaker, and our “gremlin voice” judges the speaker in the speaker’s own context. Choice 3 is frequently the choice of helpers, or people who want to support others by providing advice and helping them to solve problems. They pay attention to what is being said and jump to thinking about a solution, judging the speaker’s situation and telling him or her what to do, even if advice is not requested. Using the same examples as used in Choice 2, Choice 3 listening would look like this:

Speaker: “I am going to have to work this weekend because I have so much work to do.”
Leader Listener thinks: She doesn’t have that much work to do. She should be able to finish it easily within her work hours.

Again, the listener is judging, this time with a focus on the speaker.

Choice 3 response sounds like: “You don’t need to do that. You should be able to finish before the weekend.”

Listening Choice 4: Focus on Understanding
In Choice 4, we choose to relinquish control over the outcome of the conversation and focus completely on the speaker. We intentionally, actively listen to what is being said and how it is said. We do not judge, and our gremlin voice is quiet. Instead we are receptive and open to the speaker, seeking to understand what the speaker is saying. We have no preconceived ideas about the outcome or what we think the speaker should do. We have the opportunity to be curious, to explore possibilities. Looking at our two examples from above:

Speaker: “I am going to have to work this weekend because I have so much work to do.”
Leader Listener thinks:  I wonder what has happened? How come she has so much work, what has happened that she can’t get it done?

In this choice, the focus is on the speaker and how the listener is curious to support the needs of the speaker.

Choice 4 response sounds like: “How come it is going to take you so long to complete your work?”

Listening Choice 5: Focus on Us
Although completely relinquishing control can create a deep connection, sometimes it does not serve us to stay ambiguous when we have a stake in the outcome of the conversation. In Choice 5, we choose to intentionally, actively listen and remain invested in the outcome of the conversation. We want to understand the perspectives of others and work together to understand the needs of everyone and determine what to do next. Looking at our example:

Speaker: “I am going to have to work this weekend because I have so much work to do.”
Leader Listener thinks:  How come she can’t get her workload done during work hours? I am wondering what she needs to accomplish this?

Choice 5 response sounds like: “I need you to keep your work at work and complete it during work hours. How come you can’t complete it before the weekend and what do you need to help keep you on track?”

So the listener is open and curious, focused on the speaker and invested in supporting her colleague.

There is a time and a place for all 5 choices of listening. The key is being intentional in your choice when you enter a conversation. As seen in the examples, how you choose to listen will influence the outcome of a conversation, how you build your relationships, and the engagement of your team. As leaders, we are all busy and it can be challenging to focus on what others are saying, particularly when you are thinking about others things and someone approaches you to have a conversation. Choosing to focus on the speaker as they speak to you messages respect and ensures you have a greater opportunity to listen so that you are open to understanding their perspective. This is how you connect, collaborate, innovate, gain clarity and move forward in ways that create relationships that are effective and respectful. Leaders who choose to be open and non-judging when listening support others so they can learn, develop and thrive.

Remember, even when you don’t choose how you want to listen, you are still making a choice.

Kathy Taberner and Kirsten Taberner Siggins are a mother/daughter communication consulting team with a focus on curiosity and founders of the Institute Of Curiosity. Their book The Power Of Curiosity: How To Have Real Conversations That Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding (Morgan James 2015) gives parents or leaders (or both) the skills and the method to stay curious and connected in all conversations, even in conflict.


4 Steps to Connect With Your #Teen

Ever wondered how social media is affecting teens, a.k.a our emerging leaders? We recently published an article in Huffington Post: 4 Steps to Connect With Your #Teen.  Read it below or find the original post directly on Huffington Post – 4 Steps To Connect With Your #Teen

4 Steps to Connect With Your #Teen

Have you ever wondered how social media is influencing, and affecting, the lives of teens? If you are a parent, we are guessing YES! Major kudos to Anderson Cooper and his 360 team who explored just that in their CNN Special #Being13: Inside The Secret World Of Teens. Did you know that teens today are the first generation to have been exposed to social media for their entire lives? An area, as Anderson Cooper points out, that has had very little research.

What struck us most in this special was the enormity and power of social media, the influence it holds over teens in how they live their lives and establish self worth. From the secret language they don’t want their parents and teachers to understand to the barometer of likeability they hold themselves and others to, to the frequency they check their accounts (100 times a day!). Then there is the language, the judgment and the shame — “I don’t like dealing with things face to face because it is really easy to hide behind your phone and on face to face, like you have to deal with the other person” and the addiction — “I would rather not eat for a week then have my phone taken away. It’s really bad.”

We couldn’t help but think these teens, and all those who are following after them, are part of the largest social experiment that has happened in our lifetime, if not forever. What kind of long-term affect will this medium have on our societies, families and emerging leaders?

We are only just beginning to understand the role social media is playing in the lives of our young and the power it holds over them. To make matters even more interesting, parents are navigating with their children in uncharted waters, unaware of or struggling to ensure their kids are safe in an ever increasingly public world. This challenge is enormous for parents, particularly as there are no reference points, no past experience upon which they can draw to help them understand the new landscape in which their kids live.

At the end of the special, the psychologist and sociologist who had been involved in the project provided their recommendations for what parents can do. They recommended parents continue to talk to their kids and get their own social media accounts so they understand what their kids are involved in and how each platform works.

While we feel this is sound advice, we couldn’t help but wonder what does that look like? Based on this special, it doesn’t sound like there is a current conversation to continue. So then what do parents say and where do parents start? Given the extreme lengths teens go to hold their public space “private,” the challenges parents have always faced connecting with their teens, and how much teens love to “talk” — while important, the idea of “talk to your teens” can feel overwhelming, pointless and the hardest place to start.

So we wondered, what if we replaced the word “talk” with “get curious”? What would it be like to say to parents: “Hey parents, get curious with your teens.” When we are curious we are open, we are interested, we learn, we listen and we understand. Isn’t that what we are asking parents to do in order to support their teens? Maintain an open dialogue with their kids to learn from them, better understand them so we can help support them? We believe the only way parents can do this is by being curious.

4 Steps To Curious And Connected Conversations With Your Teen:

1. Listen: Be present, pay attention, and actively listen to your teen — it is amazing how much you can learn. They desire your undivided attention the same way you desire theirs. To help you actively listen, ABSORB what they are saying. If you find yourself wanting to tell, fix or solve — pause and come back to actively listening to your teen and their perspective. You may not agree with what they are saying, and that is OK. Just listen to learn and better understand them.

2. Be Open: When we aren’t open we judge, which narrows and closes down a conversation limiting our ability to learn from and understand others. Judging also leads to blaming and shaming — don’t believe us, talk to your teen about judgment and read comment feeds, you will see what we mean. Based on #Being13: Inside The Secret Lives Of Teens, it appears teens today have enormous peer pressures, far greater than any generation that has gone before. Be open to learning from them and their experience. This supports reflection, honesty and respect — all of which lead to understanding.

3. Ask don’t tell: Parents love to tell! And there is nothing teens hate more than being told what to do. Rather than tell your teen what they should do with social media, be curious and ask about their experience. Seek to learn and better understand how it works and the role it plays in their daily life. Focus on using questions that begin with ‘how’ and ‘what’, this will open up the conversation creating opportunities for exploration and discovery that lead to greater understanding. With greater understanding you can begin to collaborate and create a role for social media that meets the expectations of everyone concerned.

4. Test Assumptions: Most parents assume they know what their teens experience is like — we were once teens too, right? Sadly, no parent can relate to the experience of their teen from when they were the same age, nor can they assume they understand it. Rarely are our assumptions right and assumptions lead to conflict. Test each assumption you have so you can better understand what your teen’s real experience is. You can do this by using “how” and “what” questions. If you get stuck thinking of a question ‘tell me more’ is a great way to keep learning and stop assuming.

Remember, teens do what we do not what we say. Learning how to deal with another person face to face in real time begins with you. Being curious with your teen to maintain an open dialogue, with a focus on learning to understand, will have a far greater impact than anything you tweet or tell them.

Kathy Taberner and Kirsten Taberner Siggins are a mother/daughter communication consulting team with a focus on curiosity and founders of the Institute Of Curiosity. Their book The Power Of Curiosity: How To Have Real Conversations That Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding (Morgan James 2015) gives parents or leaders (or both) the skills and the method to stay curious and connected in all conversations, even in conflict.