Thursday, December 20, 2012

Didn’t Realise You Didn’t Understand?

How many of you are only ‘half listening’ when someone is speaking to you, when you receive an email do you really understand the request? The following example illustrates what can happen when you don’t listen, understand or express ourselves in a way that is understood.

The line manager made two requests via email – one asking ‘A’ to print off the attached graduation certificates and put each of them in a frame. When she went to collect them ‘A’ had only printed two of the seven certificates. The second email went to an external catering company requesting a food order. The venue was a different location to their usual location (which was stipulated in the email) however the food went to the wrong location.

Whilst these two examples can be seen as trivial, both related to a graduation ceremony which, for the facilitators, participants and organisation was important. Rectifying these two problems took time and the coordination of effective action. Both problems related to how the request was made and listened to and the ability of both parties to listen and speak in ways that were understood.
I posit organisations are a network of conversations and that is how work gets done. By understanding that work gets done through conversation and that we bring our whole ‘Way of Being’ to these conversations, we become more effective at taking action together to achieve organisational objectives.

So let’s consider how we take action together to get things done. I invite you to think about your last full day of work in your job.  Do you remember who you spoke to? Was it on the way into your office, in person, on the phone or email?  What do you remember about that first conversation?  What was the purpose of it?  How did you go away feeling after it?  Can you remember all the other people you communicated to, one-on-one, in small or large groups? How much of your day involved communicating to others.  How did these conversations support you during your day to achieve results or to make your day more enjoyable?  Were there any conversations that were unpleasant, unhelpful or that exhausted you?  How much of your day didn’t involve any conversations and were just you working alone without any communication?

Anne Courtney and I use the simple exercise in leadership development programs to highlight how, each of us spend most of our time at work in conversations with others. Having conversations are largely transparent to us; we don’t notice that this is how we get work done.  Every conversation has the following elements present:

1. Listening – to hear and understand ourselves and others
2. Speaking – our ability to express ourselves
3. Moods/emotions – recognizing and managing our mood and the moods of others
4. Physiology– how do we hold ourselves that either supports or hinders our presence

Each element is a factor in our ‘Way of Being’. By bringing our whole way of being to conversations we are able to become more effective at taking action together to achieve organisational objectives. For a conversation contact

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