Connecting eye to eye
What do people say about you when you are not in their presence?
In this episode of The Spirit of Leading I discuss the power of images, and why symbols are more powerful than words, whether it’s a flag, or a corporate logo, a brand name or trademark, or your own personal brand.
Symbols convey powerful emotional connections to ideas, ideals, and leaders. We use symbols as shorthand to communicate a range of values and beliefs.
Your personal brand is symbolic of what others think and feel about their experience with you.
Links to resources mentioned in the podcast
Did you notice that not one Academy Award winner stood in front of the audience and gloated that they beat their competition? Not one.
Instead, they thanked all those who contributed to their preparation, performance, and ultimate success, especially their immediate families.
A collaborative effort
They talked about how important the collaboration was on the journey of making their film.
They thanked their fellow cast and crew who each played a role in the overall production.
They thanked the director for inspiring and INPowering leadership.
And they all talked about their connection to and belief in the vision of their film project as conveyed by its founders, or producers.
Have you ever sat at the end of the movie and watched the entire list of credits naming every single individual who had a part in the production? Everyone gets credited, including caterers, carpenters, painters, accountants, drivers, electricians, and on and on. It’s a reminder that all endeavors are cast and crew achievements. No one is merely a hireling; everyone is a contributor.
INPowering leaders follow the Academy Award model.
I noticed the following three components Academy Award efforts have in common.
1. A unifying vision.
The story begins in the mind of its creator who is able to articulate it in a form that others can imagine and add to.
2. A focused team.
The producer assembles a team of talented contributors from many theatrical disciplines who can take the vision and translate it into reality. The director is tasked with helping the cast give the best performance they have within them.
3. Organic collaboration.
Every production encounters complex challenges for which there are no prepackaged solutions. Cast and crew bring their expertise to the set and find creative approaches that sometimes prove to be the defining difference that make their project Academy Award caliber.
Stop and think about all those who contribute to your success. Think of all the resources we rely on that others have provided.
Assertive listening is helping the speaker to express the full meaning of her or his message: what they think, feel, need, and want. More than paying attention, it’s fully participating in the conversation as a listener.
Here are three keys to moving past conventional active listening into full assertive listening.
1. Listen with the purpose to fully understand both the rational and emotional meanings of the message.
What they say is only part of the message. How they say it gives context and depth of feeling.
When they say, “I think,” they are speaking at the rational level. When they say, “I feel, “ or “I need, “ or “I want,” they are speaking from their heart and soul. Pay attention to their feelings and needs as authentic and at the heart of their message.
2. Engage in dialogue, not in debate.
The conversation is not about you and your opinions. It is about the speaker. Dialogue is about sincere discovery of what the speaker believes, feels, and needs.
3. Provide helpful feedback to the speaker.
Check your understanding by summarizing what you understand the speaker to be saying. Keep your questions focused on pulling out the deeper meanings of the speaker’s message. This information should be given to help the speaker know whether their message is getting through as intended.
Remember, your job as an assertive listener is help the speaker clearly communicate their ideas. Stay focused on them. When it’s your turn to speak, you can use the same principles to help the listener be a better listener to your message.
Here’s an example.
The usual Sunday night crowd was assembling at my church. People mingled in the spacious foyer engaged in their usual chitchat accompanied with hugs and handshakes.
Marianne, a mildly retarded middle-aged woman, joined the fellowship. A lady approached Marianne, “Hello, dear. How are you this evening?”
“My cat died today,” Marianne said, hardly above a whisper, eyes downcast.
“Oh, my dear. How sad,” the lady replied, taking Marianne’s hand and patting it sympathetically. Then, moved on.
An elderly gentleman was next. “Good evening, Marianne. How have you been?”
“My cat died today,” she said in much the same way as before.
“I’m sorry to hear that. Are you going to get another one?” he asked.
“Don’t know yet.” Marianne forced a smile and dropped her gaze to the floor.
“Well, God bless you,” and the gentleman moved on.
So, I approached Marianne. “I overheard you say that your cat died today.”
“Yes. That’s right.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss. Would you tell me about your cat?” I waited.
Marianne’s eyes lit up. She smiled, and for the next five minutes, until it was time to enter the sanctuary, she told me about her tabby, Prissy, that she adopted as a stray seven years earlier. She produced a photograph of herself holding the cat up to her face.
I simply listened and asked her for more stories about her cat.
Then she hugged me, “Thank you for listening. You must be a cat lover.”
What was the difference? Others listened and offered sympathy.
I could tell she wanted to talk about her cat, and I helped her tell her story. It’s a small, but important, difference.
We often must go beyond active listening to assertive listening.
Assertive listening is helping the speaker express the full meaning of their message: what they think, feel, need, and want.
When you are known for your listening, you will never be without someone to talk to.