What leadership tool is most often overlooked?


What leadership tool is most often overlooked?

Apparently, listening is. Though, when it is done well, it can create safety in the ever-changing working environment of new teams forming, employees leaving and entering the organisation, projects shifting priorities, etc. So, what helps anchoring this instable working environment? Focus on things we can control, instead of what we cannot control, like time spent listening to the other.

In her Harvard Business Review article, Melissa Daimler sums up some scientifically gathered facts about listening. We spend between a third to half our time listening and we don’t remember very much of it. Back in the 50s researchers found that listeners only retain about half of what has been said immediately after the conversation. I wonder what would remain of that quantity today.

Listening is a challenging skill to master in this extraverted world where the loudest voices are heard first. In my coaching sessions, I often illustrate the 3 types of listening Melissa discerns:

  1. Internal listening: when you pretend you’re engaging with the other person whilst checking your messages on your phone or laptop, being occupied with your own thoughts, worries and priorities.
  1. Focused listening: you engage with the other person, your phone is down, laptop aside, you are nodding in agreement, but you are not fully present. You are still elsewhere in your mind and you miss every nuance in the conversation.
  1. 360° listening: this is where you take time to fully connect. You’re not just listening to what the person is saying, but also how he is saying it and even better – what he is not saying: what topics give him energy, which don’t, and where the person pauses when speaking.

“Listening creates spaciousness, which we need to do good work,” Melissa continues. But how can you listen more? What conditions advocate listening?

  • Eye contact: look people in the eye. Don’t stare at your phone or laptop or glance outside the window. And smile.
  • Create space in your day: Melissa experiences that she listens more when she creates space in her day. So, manage your calendar and stop booking yourself out the entire day. Giving someone your undevided attention is absolutely priceless (not just in the office).
  • Ask more questions: most employees just want you to either affirm their line of thinking, or need a sounding board to be challenged for more solutions. So, first be sure to understand the situation and then, instead of giving advice, try asking several questions. Simultaneously, you are coaching your staff towards more confidence and autonomy.

Unfortunately, there is no black and white solution for all situations. There will always be exceptions. But next time you are talking, ask yourself: “Am I really listening, or just waiting for my turn to speak?” Perhaps you can pause to squeeze in a question instead of your advice or opinion. Try it!


Source: Harvard Business Review


“Resilience is about how you recharge, not how you endure.”

Strategically stopping and building in recovery periods during our day time is highly effective in building resilience. Apparently, our brains need as much sleep as our bodies do.

When coaching executives and managers I often draw the comparison with top sport. In order to achieve extraordinary results, we need to alternate practice with regular periods of substantial relaxation. No one wants heavy legs when you need to pull out your best sprint of the year, now do you?

In business and daily life this simple rule in self-management and prevention of burn-out is ever so easily overlooked. So, take at least three 5-minute breaks per day to stop the threadmill in your mulling brain. During one of those time-outs, think of 3 things you will undertake this week to recharge, rather than endure. My top three for this week:

  1. take 3 mindful 3-minute-breaks per day with focus on breathing
  2. go to sleep when I feel tired instead of staying glued to Netflix
  3. collect my daughter from school on foot instead of using the car

I know, it’s not rocket science. But it still is very powerful and easy to do.

So, how will you stop to recharge yourself this week? More tips in the full Harvard Business Review article.




4 Things That Sink New Executives, and How to Overcome Them

When moving up the career ladder, 50-70% of executives fail within 1,5 years of their new assignment. Despite that, these executives were high-potentials, though. So it couldn’t have been because they weren’t capable. So what made them slip? Intensive research has uncovered four ‘derailers’ and how to overcome them.


1. Avoid a larger-than-life persona by defining your image Perception is everything.

When you become a leader, people suddenly start seeing your differently. Some leaders are attributed celebrity status, others become fearful dictators in the eyes of their beholders. To overcome this misinterpretation, leaders must have the courage to confront these misconceptions and try to anticipate the reactions of others before others broadcast them incorrectly to a wider audience.


2. Neutralize the megaphone effect by crafting purposeful messages

New executives are not only perceived differently, the way they communicate is also amplified by the looking glass. Words, pauses, small talk, impactful words, … they are all attributed more meaning than the executive intends. Remain mindful in how to formulate organisation’s views. There is no ‘small talk’ at the top of organisations. Take extra time to consider the impact of thoughts and views. Do it genuinely and precisely.


3. Don’t resent sifted data, learn to work with it

When leaders are elevated in their new roles, they notice they don’t have access to data they used to have. Information is filtered now. Knowledge means power. Suddenly, they found themselves out of access to information they could previously freely rely on. No leader will get access to the data he used to have before. But, if he can be up front with information needs, mindful on people’s concerns, and above all, consistent in style to handle hard truths with grace and honesty, he will get increasingly complete data.


4. Embrace the aliens next door

Former peers become direct reports, former superiors a new set of peers. Relationships once characterized as familiar will never be the same. Politics at top level make it hard to trust the new peers. And even though executives still feel like the same person, everything else will never be the same. Successful leaders redefine relationships and reset boundaries to send a clear signal for desiring trusting relationships. They deliberately discuss priorities, accessibility, information flow, and mutual expectations of influence and confidentiality. So, even though distortions are unavoidable for leaders in a transition, a lot will depend on how they respond. If they remain in control, they can accelerate early wins to become a successful leader.


Read the full article: https://hbr.org/2016/02/4-things-that-sink-new-executives-and-how-to-overcome-them