Posts Tagged ‘communication’

One Person at a Time

My favorite work as a leader is the time spent one on one, digging deep, helping to bring out the best in someone.  The other fun part is motivating large teams toward a vision and strategy to get something important done.  And then there is the in-between.

What I find most difficult as I have assumed larger roles with bigger teams is the strong desire to connect one on one, and the almost impossible task of getting to know everyone in a large organization to the depth that I would like.  I do my best to be as fully present as I can in each encounter, but it can be tough to do this well.   Intimacy is hard to scale.

This challenge hit me in the face this week.

I was talking to an extended member of my team who does important work in my organization hundreds of miles away and a few levels down the org chart.   I had not seen him in about 6 months. He said to me, “Karin, I think about what you said to me every day.”  Oh boy… I smiled and waited.  It turns out  that once he reminded me of the challenge I had given him, I recalled the entire conversation, including exactly where we had been standing at the time.  However, if I had been really on my game, I would have had immediate recall and perhaps have even been the first to bring it up.

I was so pleased that the conversation had helped him, and so disappointed in myself for the lack of proactive follow-through.

As timing would have it,  the next day I walked into my office to find the very large stack of books I had ordered to give away at an upcoming summit I was hosting for some of my team.  My intention was to inscribe them with a personal messages for each team member.  That seemed like a good idea weeks ago, but now with literal wildfires burning in the West, and other emergencies that were consuming my day, it seemed like a daunting task.

That evening, I dove in… and  was surprised to find that what had felt like a difficult time-consuming exercise turned into a calming and useful experience.  Somehow, moving deliberately through the team, one person at a time.. thinking about each person very specifically and the gifts they were giving, felt magical to me.  Time melted away in a peaceful meditation.   I left that night feeling tremendous gratitude for the people in my organization and their contributions to the work and to one another.  It also became obvious to me that I knew some folks much better than others, and had much work ahead of me to be an effective leader for them.

Can intimacy scale?  Tough question.  There are certainly ways to be completely present in our relationships even in a large team setting.  And, of course ways to do better with follow-up.  I also found value in thinking quietly about each person one at a time, and seeing what surfaces.

Would love your comments and ideas…

Better Get a Bucket: Tips for Listening with Care

I believe that after integrity,  listening is the second most important leadership skill.

And… it is also one of the most difficult.

Listening well is hard.  Listening well, consistently, is even harder.

Lately, I have been paying more attention to what is happening when the listening is good.

The key is having some good buckets– categories to help you organize what you hear, and to feed it back.

People need to know that you  have heard them… that you are with them… and that you got the gist.

Buckets help you organize your listening and feedback.

One on One

Imagine an emotional co-worker coming to you with a long story about why a project is in jeopardy.  You listen intently to what she has to say, and look for the main ideas.  After she is done, you can respond with empathy and understanding.

“I am hearing three main concerns here… let me see I have this right… “and then spill your buckets.

Helping someone to organize their own thoughts makes them feel better, and usually calmer.  Situations seem easier to tackle when they are simplified into groups.

Bigger Groups

This also works in larger contexts as well.  I recently watched an executive who was hosting a big conference get up every 3 hours and feedback the big ideas he heard from each speaker.  He put his buckets on display, reinforced key messages, and modeled the level of listening that should be happening.

I have also used this technique in large town hall meetings.  Rather than respond to every comment, I listen intently and then share  (and respond to) the main buckets of issues.

There is value in the trying

Of course sometimes, your buckets will be wrong.  That’s okay.

It at least helps the conversation along in a productive way.

Try taking a bucket to your next meeting.  It’s exciting to see what might fill it up.

What other skills do you find help with effective listening?