3 Reasons to Shut Up and Listen Well

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The way you listen is telling, a compass that points to the true focus of your attention. For good listeners, that needle points to the person talking. For bad listeners, that needle points to themselves.

The thing is that it’s really obvious. Great listening requires you to show that it’s happening, and that it’s happening sincerely. Much of that sincere communication comes down to lighting up to show “message received”. Instead, some people fall into a bad habit of putting on a show of listening, mumbling sounds of non-contextual agreement, or interrupting with “yes, but —”, or pretending to be attentive but mishearing everything.

Listening isn’t simply waiting for your turn to say something or show off your brilliance but engaging with what’s being said, building on it, reacting with thoughts and emotions, and showing that you understand or want to know more.

While the art of listening is touted in business, it’s rarely practiced. Bad listening is bad business, and here’s why:

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Listen To Your Employees

[S]top telling people what to do and … start asking them their opinion about the best way to get something done.

Josh Patrick, founder of Stage 2 Planning Partners, on the value of asking and actually listening to your employees.

When you ask first, you’ll learn instead of assume. And while it’s tough to trust employees, mistakes are important learning opportunities.

Set and communicate greater expectations for your team members, and their performance will reach greater heights.

Stop Repeating the Same Mistakes

We make a lot of mistakes in life, and a lot of those mistakes take place at work. Elaine Wherry, founder of Meebo, even made a mistake diary to remember and review her mistakes, such as time management and perfectionism issues. “I wanted to be able to reflect on them later,” she explains, “so I wouldn’t beat myself up during the week … It was a way to get more sleep.” As she saw her employees make many of the same mistakes she did, the diary developed into a manual to share what she learned with others.

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Luc Levesque, founder of TravelPod and General Manager at TripAdvisor, decided to guide his employees with a boss blueprint. Luc shares his particular values, dislikes, and quirks to prime new employees for great performance in short order. With swift, effective communication rather than protracted information asymmetry, employees — and the company as a whole — are able to sidestep a period of trial and error, as well as lots of trials, tribulations, and stress.

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Dare to Say “Yes, And”

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The skills cultivated in improvisation — communication, creativity, teamwork, taking risks, and resilience — are ones you’d want to see on a résumé. Business schools are taking note and even teaching improv. Robert Kulhan, adjunct professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business explains, that at its core, “Improvisation isn’t about comedy, it’s about reacting — being focused and present in the moment at a very high level.”

One of the most fundamental principles of improv which produces that mindful reacting is “Yes, and”. You accept and agree with what someone has said, and you’re not done until you build upon it, which requires listening, understanding, and insight.

That “and” generates possibility, and as Tina Fey writes in Bossypants, responsibility. For her, “Yes, and” means, “[D]on’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.”

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How to Keep Calm and Carry On When You Feel Ignored

(This is the last part of the 3-part “Manager’s Series” by our friend, time coach, and productivity expert Elizabeth Grace Saunders.)

When you’ve tried so hard to address team members’ emotional hurdles to accepting change and walked them through how to apply the change to their work situation, your blood can start boiling when you still don’t see the desired results. You feel ignored. “How could they be do disrespectful?” you seethe. “Do they even notice? Do they even care?”

pulling out your hair when you feel ignored

Before you stomp over to people to tell them exactly how you feel about their impertinence, step back and take a deep breath … and one more.

As a time coach and trainer and the author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, my specialty is in working with people who really struggle with getting in control of their time and their routines. I can assure you that unless they’re natural rebels, people generally want to do what you’ve asked but they just haven’t mastered it yet.

While some people need only one telling to master a task or respond to a request, others need multiple. This can make you crazy if you let it, as you’ll need to keep at it for awhile. You can’t control others’ speed of integration of change, but you can control your emotional response to feeling ignored and your method of communication.

My book leads you through different types of accountability and discusses how to reduce time-caused drama—including tips for recovery. To help you with your resilience and patience in the midst of implementing team-wide change (or lack thereof) — using the example of getting reluctant team-members to use a new work tool like iDoneThis — here are five steps you can apply:

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What Goldilocks Can Teach You About Management

Running a classroom and running a business have interesting parallels for what works best to cultivate intrinsic motivation, effective productivity, and successful performance. Whether we’re students or employees, we need supportive conditions to achieve know-how and expertise.

On the education front, Dr. MaryEllen Vogt has examined the effect of how teachers’ perception of their students’ aptitude influenced their classroom approach. She found that when students were perceived as high performers, teachers:

  • talked less and encouraged more interactions among students,
  • allowed for more creative and generative approaches to learning,
  • offered opportunities for independent work,
  • had warmer and more personal relationships with students, and
  • spent little time on behavior or classroom management issues.

When teachers saw their students as low performers, they:

  • prepared more structured lessons,
  • allowed fewer opportunities for student creativity,
  • covered less content,
  • rewarded students for “trying hard” rather than for “good thinking,”
  • spent a significant amount of time on behavior and management issues, and
  • had less congenial relationships with students due to their heavy emphasis on discipline.Source: Karen Tankersley, Literacy Strategies for Grades 4-12

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How the Power-Happiness Connection Matters at Work

People who feel powerful are happier, according to a recent study published in Psychological Science.

Researchers found that authenticity is what connects that relationship between power and “subjective well-being” (happiness, basically). When you have power, your behavior can align more closely with your desires and values so that you are free to be more authentic. And when you can go about your day being more true to yourself, you feel happier.

“[B]y leading people to be true to their desires and inclinations — to be authentic — power leads individuals to experience greater happiness,” the study authors note. What’s especially interesting is that dispositional power, or your sense of power, is a strong predictor of happiness, so your perception matters.

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How Luc Levesque Leads TravelPod & TripAdvisor to Focus on Being the Best

Transparent communication is a theme running through Luc Levesque’s career, from his 1997 founding of Travelpod, the first travel blogging website where people could share their adventures, to his current practice of handing new employees a boss blueprint.  Luc is currently a General Manager at TripAdvisor, responsible for its global SEO efforts and TravelPod’s business unit. We talked with Luc about how he communicates with his team and how frequent feedback is vital to great performance.

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Clayton Christensen on What Management Isn’t

Many think of management as cutting deals and laying people off and hiring people and buying and selling companies. That’s not management, that’s dealmaking. Management is the opportunity to help people become better people. Practiced that way, it’s a magnificent profession.

Clayton Christensen in Wired, “Clayton Christensen Wants to Transform Capitalism

The Struggles of Managing the Invisible

The peculiar challenge of knowledge work is that so much of it takes place in our heads and out of sight. In contrast to the era of factory work, knowledge work is nowhere near as visible. You can’t discern the state of progress by looking at tangible output or product.

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This poses a particular problem for managers, whose job it is to support their employees and enable progress. You can’t properly manage what you can’t see. Otherwise the result is directives and orders that don’t make sense, veering toward irrelevance and away from the reality of the situation. Leading blindly without understanding the status of projects and the context in which people are working makes as much sense as managing a production line without seeing the state and quality of a product as it is being assembled.

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