How Do I Cultivate the Practice of Listening? (Part 2)

One-on-one meetings are valuable for getting to know one another. Dealing face-to-face with an individual brings very different dynamics into play than emailing or talking by phone or on a telecon. One-on-one, each person deals with the reality of a complex person and allows their own complexity to interact with the other. Each person sees many aspects of the other.

Leaders who understand the value of relationships can find ways to spend uninterrupted time with people they want to mentor or just get to know better.

  • Get together at breaks or mealtimes. Eating together is an important form of connection. Very few Asian employees are found eating lunch at the desk. They may eat breakfast or snacks while working, but lunch is the time to eat freshly made, warm food and connect with people.
  • Talk regularly with someone about things that matter to both of you. A leader can build relationships by talking and listening with another about things each person thinks are important. In such conversations, there is the sense that each person gets equal time. Share with one another around questions like:
    • What is your life like? What do you love about work? What are you doing well?
    • What is challenging? What was your greatest challenge and how did you meet it?
    • What are your greatest hopes and dreams? For yourself? For family? At work? For the community? For our planet?
    • Share about feelings, such as frustration or anxiety or feeling overwhelmed.
    • Share and delight in each other’s successes.

People can be encouraged to share further if you say “Tell me more” or ask “Why?” three or four times. This often leads people into expressing their deepest reasons for doing things.

Close relationships and feeling connected are the foundation of positive and productive workplaces. Many Western ideas about “professionalism” keep people in an organization separate. Yet organizational leaders hope their colleagues will support one another for the common good. When leaders learn to listen and encourage others to do the same, the power of connection and relationship can grow.

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