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Are we really listening?
Episode 624th November 2022 • How to Take the Lead • Lee Griffith and Carrie-Ann Wade
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In this episode we explore what it really means to listen as a leader. Listening isn’t just about what you hear through your ears but what you see and experience. Working out who to listen to and how is one thing but you also need to decide what to do with what you are hearing.

  • 04:27  – cutting through the noise
  • 07:39 – what have you put in place to listen well?
  • 09:14 – don’t just listen to those who shout loudest
  • 15:52 – what gets in the way of truly listening?
  • 21:21 – reading the room
  • 23:43 – you can’t promise to fix everything 
  • 30:55 – our top takeaways

As always we share our top takeaways and in this episode we ask you to consider the channels and mechanisms you have in place to listen as a leader. And we encourage you to work on not taking feedback personally or being overwhelmed by the idea of actively listening. Remember to be present when you are listening. 

We reference statistics from the Forbes article ‘6 Ways Effective Listening Can Make You A Better Leader’

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Transcripts

Carrie-Ann:

Oh, we're back to buckets.

Carrie-Ann:

We haven't added bucket since probably like series two on Instagram.

Carrie-Ann:

I'm loving that the buckets are back.

Carrie-Ann:

Welcome to this episode of How to Take the Lead.

Carrie-Ann:

I am here as always with the lovely Lee.

Carrie-Ann:

Hello Lee.

Carrie-Ann:

How are you doing?

Lee:

Good evening.

Lee:

Um, well, not to people who are listening cause they could be listening at any time

Lee:

of the day, but good evening to you Carrie Ann at the time that we're recording it.

Carrie-Ann:

And good evening to you too.

Carrie-Ann:

I feel like there's gonna be some sort of Two Ronnies slash

Lee:

yeah.

Carrie-Ann:

reporter, news reporter sketch.

Carrie-Ann:

So, um, so before we crack on with the episode, just a little check in how you

Carrie-Ann:

doing, what your energy levels like.

Carrie-Ann:

If is anything exciting happened since the last time we, we spoke.

Lee:

has anything exciting happened?

Lee:

I've discovered Vinted.

Lee:

That's my, that's my personal life excitement.

Lee:

I've, I'm now selling all my shit basically on Vinted to other people.

Carrie-Ann:

I love that you're having a declutter.

Carrie-Ann:

A pre spring, Spring clean.

Lee:

Yes.

Carrie-Ann:

it's kind of a new season vibe though.

Carrie-Ann:

I feel like people are clearing out, making, making space, whether

Carrie-Ann:

that's physical head space,

Lee:

it's quite cathartic and it's also nice to see the money come in,

Lee:

particularly as I got my gas bill this week, which, which, yeah, I'm

Lee:

sat here with my hot water bottle,

Carrie-Ann:

Every, every possible item of clothing that you haven't sold, on

Carrie-Ann:

Vinted you're wearing to keep warm.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah.

Carrie-Ann:

. Anyhow, we digress as we usually do.

Carrie-Ann:

We have a love bit of small talk at the start of an episode, but we know that's

Carrie-Ann:

not what the listeners are here for.

Carrie-Ann:

They are here for the good stuff.

Carrie-Ann:

And, in this episode, we wanted to just explore a bit more around, listening.

Carrie-Ann:

And what it really means to listen as a leader and whether we feel like we really

Carrie-Ann:

are listening in our leadership positions.

Carrie-Ann:

So, before we get into the good stuff and, and I give you a bit of a grilling league,

Carrie-Ann:

cause I always feel that's that's the role I take on, you're much better when

Carrie-Ann:

you do these at making it conversational.

Carrie-Ann:

Whereas when I'm, I'm in the driving seat for the podcast, I like to

Carrie-Ann:

give you a good grilling cuz I know there's load, I can learn.

Lee:

You get your Jeremy Paxman on, you're like, Give me the answers,

Carrie-Ann:

Tell me, tell me.

Carrie-Ann:

Anyhow, we do talk a lot about listening as a leader, but I wanted to

Carrie-Ann:

explore what we really mean by that.

Carrie-Ann:

I was thinking about an article that I read in Forbes, and it is a little

Carrie-Ann:

bit dated now, but that article stated that 85% of what we know we have

Carrie-Ann:

learned from listening, interestingly, people generally listen though at

Carrie-Ann:

a 25% comprehension rate, which is probably not a surprise to us with

Carrie-Ann:

our backgrounds in communications and thinking about how we, really

Carrie-Ann:

support people to, listen understand, messages that we're putting out.

Carrie-Ann:

But in a typical business day, we spend 45% of our time listening.

Carrie-Ann:

30% of our time talking.

Carrie-Ann:

And if you're interested in the other percentages, it's

Carrie-Ann:

16% reading and 9% writing.

Carrie-Ann:

So I was just setting a bit of context there around how important listening is.

Carrie-Ann:

And I know we will talk about how to be a good listener.

Carrie-Ann:

I hope at some point, um, in this conversation.

Carrie-Ann:

But in the kind of leadership space, I think, we often hear people

Carrie-Ann:

make comments about leadership, feeling like quite a lonely place.

Carrie-Ann:

But for me, it can also feel like quite a noisy place to be as a leader because I

Carrie-Ann:

feel like everyone's got something to say.

Carrie-Ann:

You know how you are leading, what you are leading, uh, sometimes to your

Carrie-Ann:

face and sometimes I'm sure behind your back as a leader, so it, it can

Carrie-Ann:

feel quite noisy and people have got an opinion about what you should be

Carrie-Ann:

doing and how you should be doing it.

Carrie-Ann:

There are absolutely loads of calls on your time as a leader,

Carrie-Ann:

and we've talked about some of this before in other episodes with many

Carrie-Ann:

competing demands and priorities.

Carrie-Ann:

So, I wanted to just think about how, as leaders, can we cut through that noise?

Lee:

Mm.

Carrie-Ann:

how do we work out what's important in terms of the

Carrie-Ann:

conversations we're part of and, and who we are choosing to listen to?

Lee:

I love this topic because it's something that's very dear to my heart.

Lee:

And quite important to me both in my corporate role when I've worked

Lee:

in organizations and I've seen the results and the fallout from

Lee:

leaders who haven't listened, um, and that poor culture that develops.

Lee:

Because bad behaviors start to permeate staff engagement drops, performance drops,

Lee:

customer experience is affected, and then reputation, all of that, it starts to

Lee:

spiral and it can all start from something as simple as leaders not listening.

Lee:

So it is absolutely something that I feel quite passionate about.

Lee:

And obviously the job I do now, I work with leaders around making the

Lee:

right impact and a lot of that is around listening to build connection

Lee:

and testing what you hear as a leader to help build that trust.

Lee:

So yes, I'm like all in on this conversation today and I I really,

Lee:

before I get to the actual question you've asked, cuz this is my way,

Lee:

I go off on a little tangent,

Lee:

But your figures were, were really interested to start because actually

Lee:

we are talking, listening, or when you read those figures out, listening is

Lee:

in through your ears, but there are so many other ways you can listen.

Lee:

So actually I think all those figures will constitute some form of listening.

Lee:

So what you read, are you actually paying attention, absorbing it?

Lee:

Um, you know what you're seeing.

Lee:

Are you hearing what's being.

Lee:

Said in, in nonverbal ways.

Lee:

So I think it, you know, I don't want our conversation today to be purely

Lee:

about what is verbally said, because I do think it's more complex about than that.

Carrie-Ann:

And to throw another stat in the mix there then, um, which I also

Carrie-Ann:

found quite interesting, when we're talking about listening, and I know we,

Carrie-Ann:

we'll talk more about the, the how around this as well, but less than 2% of all

Carrie-Ann:

professionals have had any formal sort of learning or training to understand and

Carrie-Ann:

improve listening skills and techniques.

Carrie-Ann:

So when you're talking about the fact, it isn't just about what you hear

Carrie-Ann:

through your ears, I mean, you know, 2% of people actually really understanding

Carrie-Ann:

what it means to listen and practicing good listening techniques is, is

Carrie-Ann:

quite staggering really, isn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

But back to that first point, Lee, around there is a lot of calls on

Carrie-Ann:

leaders to listen and to be part of lots of different conversations.

Carrie-Ann:

How do you start to work out as a leader that the space you need to

Carrie-Ann:

be in, in terms of that listening, what conversations are important?

Carrie-Ann:

You know, who, who do you choose to listen to as a leader and, and

Carrie-Ann:

I guess more importantly, why?

Lee:

It is incredibly overwhelming because everyone does want a piece of

Lee:

you, as you said, so you've got to work out, um, How you're gonna cope with

Lee:

that as a leader, first and foremost.

Lee:

You don't want to kneejerk respond to everything that comes

Lee:

your way or ignore the wrong people, cuz you will pay a price.

Lee:

So this is an important part of your establishing your

Lee:

leadership approach for me.

Lee:

So for me, I think there are a few things.

Lee:

I think firstly looking at the methods and mechanisms you have in place to listen.

Lee:

Then there's something for me about the types of questions, how you determine the

Lee:

questions that you are seeking to answer.

Lee:

Cause I think that will help inform how and who you listen

Lee:

to . Then that moves on to what you actually do with what you hear.

Lee:

And I think it's not as simple as just aligning what or who you listen

Lee:

to to say your vision or your values.

Lee:

Cause that could be a really simple way of chopping it up.

Lee:

But I think that's when you are at risk of missing what's really

Lee:

going on in your organization and what's really important to people.

Lee:

So there's some broader questions that you need to start with and look

Lee:

at different mechanisms to do that.

Lee:

And I do think my other standing principle is, As leaders, we have to

Lee:

stop worrying about or putting all our effort and energy into those who shout

Lee:

the loudest, because as we said, there's so much more to who and how you listen.

Lee:

So I think we probably explore some of that in a bit more detail as

Lee:

we carry on with the discussion.

Lee:

But for me, those are the kind of four my four buckets.

Carrie-Ann:

Oh, we're back to buckets.

Carrie-Ann:

We haven't added bucket since probably like series two on Instagram.

Carrie-Ann:

I'm loving that the buckets are back.

Carrie-Ann:

I think that's really helpful in terms of how you've laid that out there in terms

Carrie-Ann:

of, of the principles and foundations around how we start to to think about

Carrie-Ann:

who, who we listen to as a leader and what sort of conversations we're part of.

Carrie-Ann:

I loved what you said about not getting sucked into that trap necessarily of

Carrie-Ann:

always listening to those who shout loudest and have the loudest voice.

Carrie-Ann:

In fact, it is really important, isn't it, to give a voice and really listen to

Carrie-Ann:

those people who, who are not being vocal.

Carrie-Ann:

And who are perhaps being quite quiet.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think that is definitely something to consider, um, when you

Carrie-Ann:

are in that leadership space that actually sometimes the people that are

Carrie-Ann:

choosing not to engage are the people whose opinions and voice you need to

Carrie-Ann:

listen to, sometimes more than others.

Carrie-Ann:

I find that a lot with the whole idea of staff surveys, like it is a brilliant

Carrie-Ann:

temperature check to do staff surveys, but I'm usually more interested in the

Carrie-Ann:

reasons why people choose not to fill them in rather than pushing for that magical

Carrie-Ann:

number of a percentage response rate.

Carrie-Ann:

Cuz actually the fact that a certain percentage of your workforce are choosing

Carrie-Ann:

not to fill that staff survey in should really be telling you something and you

Carrie-Ann:

should, should be exploring that and wanting to listen to what that's telling.

Lee:

When I was in my corporate role, we did a big change program, and it was

Lee:

changing services, and there was a small but very, very, very vocal group who

Lee:

wanted to campaign against the change.

Lee:

And there was an anxiety from the senior leadership team that we

Lee:

needed to pander to that and the noise that they were creating.

Lee:

And if we had gone down that route and just followed their lead and

Lee:

responded to everything they said.

Lee:

We wouldn't have made any of the changes, and I was quite headstrong, I

Lee:

suppose, in going, We won't ignore them.

Lee:

Their voice is welcome, but we need to find alternative voices and

Lee:

different ways that people more broadly can engage in the conversations.

Lee:

And so actually we found this really active community of people who didn't.

Lee:

Didn't want to be part of that noise, Didn't relate to

Lee:

what the noise was saying.

Lee:

Wanted to be part of a solution to make things better.

Lee:

And we, we got a far stronger outcome of the change program because we

Lee:

said, Hang on a minute, we're not just gonna go to the people who, who

Lee:

think they've got the ears of the politicians or the media and all of that,

Lee:

because they can create a loud noise.

Lee:

But we're gonna go into the communities and the people who are

Lee:

actually affected and listen to them

Carrie-Ann:

I absolutely think you're right.

Carrie-Ann:

It's about trying to create that diverse voices in it and, and try to hear from

Carrie-Ann:

everybody, which, like we've said, feels like a bit of an overwhelming tasks

Carrie-Ann:

when, when there are so many different stakeholders that you're trying to manage.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think something around working out which conversations you need to

Carrie-Ann:

be in is about doing that stakeholder.

Carrie-Ann:

I'm making it sound really formal, stakeholder mapping piece.

Carrie-Ann:

But there is something about understanding who your key stakeholder groups are and

Carrie-Ann:

then how you can reach out and be part of those conversations with them for sure.

Carrie-Ann:

Um, and I was just interested reflecting back on something you said when

Carrie-Ann:

you first started speaking about, it's important not always just to

Carrie-Ann:

listen to those voices that align.

Carrie-Ann:

With your vision and your values and, and what you are setting

Carrie-Ann:

out for the organization.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think that's almost a similar note of caution, isn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

Around just listening to those voices that, that shout the loudest because

Carrie-Ann:

actually, You know, you do need to, to create a space for people to have

Carrie-Ann:

that challenge and to challenge your own thinking because actually, you

Carrie-Ann:

need to listen to those people that are not maybe on board with your vision

Carrie-Ann:

to find out why there might be some really good, genuine stuff in there,

Carrie-Ann:

which means you have to change course or do something a bit differently.

Carrie-Ann:

So if you are only in those conversations and spaces listening to

Carrie-Ann:

people, you've got the same view of as you, that can be quite dangerous.

Lee:

We've advised against the echo chamber many, many a time and I think

Lee:

this is one area that is really important.

Lee:

And I also think that particularly with things like your vision and values,

Lee:

You need to, I mean, your values are personal to you, and they're less likely

Lee:

to be influenced by views, but the vision that you set for particularly if

Lee:

you're working in an organization, has to be responsive to the needs of the

Lee:

people that the organization serves.

Lee:

And if you come in with a completely left field idea that that.

Lee:

Isn't going to land well with people.

Lee:

That doesn't mean it has to be popular cuz you can take

Lee:

people on a journey of change.

Lee:

But if they think you are not tackling the things that are gonna be important

Lee:

to them, they're never gonna buy into you and your vision and then you failed at

Lee:

that first hurdle of leadership really.

Carrie-Ann:

I guess just to move this on a little bit, and I think it

Carrie-Ann:

links nicely to your point, for me, you know, truly listening, it's, it's

Carrie-Ann:

more than just words, isn't it to say that I'm a leader who listens and,

Carrie-Ann:

and I think there is this danger that people can perceive leaders who go big

Carrie-Ann:

in that space and make ironically, a big noise about listening, um, can

Carrie-Ann:

almost sometimes feel a bit tick box.

Carrie-Ann:

Um, and some of that is about the mechanisms I guess, that get

Carrie-Ann:

put in place around listening.

Carrie-Ann:

I'm just interested to hear from you in terms of your experience about, what

Carrie-Ann:

advice you would give to leaders about how to truly listen to their stakeholders,

Carrie-Ann:

rather than going down that tick box route of we've done a consultation event, that

Carrie-Ann:

means we've listened, tick, for example.

Carrie-Ann:

Where would you start with the advice for leaders about how to truly listen?

Lee:

Well, I think if you go back to the basic premise of a conversation where most

Lee:

people are in conversations, they actually listening for an opportunity to speak.

Lee:

That is they're already working through.

Lee:

What's their response gonna be?

Lee:

I'm waiting for a chance to jump into that conversation so

Lee:

they're not truly listening.

Lee:

So if you take that as, as the premise and then you can see how

Lee:

that would work through a whole load of different scenarios.

Lee:

I think the things that get in the way of you listening is when you're trying

Lee:

to guess where that conversation might be heading, if you are trying to rehearse

Lee:

your reply to the conversation, if you're making assumptions about where

Lee:

that other person or group of people are coming from, if you are feeling

Lee:

anxious or you've got a fear about what you might hear, um, or what people are

Lee:

saying, if you are thinking too much about yourself as you put the question out.

Lee:

If you've got that pressure of time because you need to deliver

Lee:

something by X point, all of these things impact your ability to listen.

Lee:

And as we said from the outside, listening isn't just about what you hear, it's what

Lee:

you see, what you read, how you hear it, and the things you don't see or hear.

Lee:

So it's really multifaceted and I think the best conversations and

Lee:

the best way to listen and when people really feel listened to.

Lee:

is when someone can really respond to all

Carrie-Ann:

Absolutely.

Carrie-Ann:

I think, I'm sure we can all give examples of where we've been in

Carrie-Ann:

conversations with people where they are saying one thing with their words,

Carrie-Ann:

and you are listening, but actually their body language, for example, is

Carrie-Ann:

saying something completely different.

Carrie-Ann:

And it's being able to recognize those sorts of cues, isn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

And understand that actually, although somebody might be saying one thing,

Carrie-Ann:

actually, what they really mean, or how they really feel is, is hidden somewhere

Carrie-Ann:

else and that you need to have that, that curiosity and that desire as, as well as

Carrie-Ann:

I guess that skill to dig a bit deeper and understand more about what it is that

Carrie-Ann:

somebody's truly trying to say to you.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think that comes a lot with the fear piece as well, that you

Carrie-Ann:

mentioned that, sometimes particularly if you are a leader, going into a

Carrie-Ann:

conversation with somebody that.

Carrie-Ann:

Be quite overwhelming for that person.

Carrie-Ann:

And we hear that phrase a lot about speaking truth to power, but that

Carrie-Ann:

isn't always easy to do actually.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think as a leader you need to almost have your senses heightened to that.

Carrie-Ann:

The fact that you might have to do a bit more digging and maybe a bit of

Carrie-Ann:

triangulation with what other things are telling you to really kind of

Carrie-Ann:

understand whether what you've heard is, is really what that person or that group

Carrie-Ann:

of people have said to you for sure.

Lee:

I brushed over it.

Lee:

But this, this notion of, and we've all done it where we think we know

Lee:

what the answer to the question is that we've asked or we've made an

Lee:

assumption about the person and the angle they're gonna bring to the discussion.

Lee:

And I think we have to be really careful in those situations because, They're

Lee:

gonna stop you being inquisitive when you go out and discuss to people.

Lee:

Or it's gonna lead the type of questions that you ask, and so

Lee:

you're not truly exploring the topic.

Lee:

I do think there are some helpful things you can do to show your listening,

Lee:

and it isn't a tick box, Oh, I do this, but I'm not really listening.

Lee:

If you do things like summarize what you've heard.

Lee:

Um, Potentially paraphrasing, but you've gotta be really careful with that cuz

Lee:

if you put words in their mouths that they didn't say, you can quite quickly

Lee:

lose that connection that you'll build and they won't feel listened to.

Lee:

It could be asking further questions like you said, and start to probe and explore,

Lee:

but making sure they're open questions and not closing down the conversation.

Lee:

Sometimes it's about not saying anything and just letting that other person get

Lee:

off the chest, whatever it is that's, they need to vent and you don't show

Lee:

any judgment or attachment if you don't actually participate in the discussion.

Lee:

And then I think there's also you, you need to be mindful of your

Lee:

behaviors and your body language.

Lee:

So are you fidgeting whilst that person's talking?

Lee:

Are you multitasking?

Lee:

Are you not making eye contact as they, as they talk to you?

Lee:

What's your face saying?

Lee:

All of those things are really important parts of a conversation

Lee:

and for people feeling listened to.

Carrie-Ann:

And, and I feel like quite a lot of that links with sort of empathy

Carrie-Ann:

and the conversation we've had before around emotional intelligence as well.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think people who are highly emotionally intelligent can often be

Carrie-Ann:

perceived to be better listeners because they are, all of those sorts of things are

Carrie-Ann:

coming naturally to them in terms of the interactions that they have with people.

Carrie-Ann:

Loved your point about sometimes it's just about letting people vent.

Carrie-Ann:

It's not even about having a two-way conversation.

Carrie-Ann:

And I, I remember a, a point in time many years back in my career now where

Carrie-Ann:

we, um, were taking on a new service and we had to have staff transfer into our

Carrie-Ann:

organization and we held listening events.

Carrie-Ann:

And the first event I attended, gosh, I was totally, I don't think I was surprised

Carrie-Ann:

cuz I knew there would be a level of hostility, but it was just like, We'd

Carrie-Ann:

gone in with an agenda that we wanted to talk about and get feedback on.

Carrie-Ann:

And actually before we could even get to that point, people's

Carrie-Ann:

frustrations and anxieties and worries about what might happen.

Carrie-Ann:

You know, were all bubbling there on the surface and it was really obvious to me

Carrie-Ann:

in that room that we weren't gonna be able to, to have the conversation we'd intended

Carrie-Ann:

to, but actually that it is accepting that that's okay and, And I remember

Carrie-Ann:

saying to a group of people it was in the world's smallest room in the top of a pub,

Carrie-Ann:

weirdly, which is why I remember it, where the chairs were all set out and there was

Carrie-Ann:

hardly enough space to stand at the front.

Carrie-Ann:

And I was like, These people are so close to me and they're really angry.

Carrie-Ann:

And I just remember saying, Look, let's just have some time now for you to

Carrie-Ann:

say what you, what you need to say and what you want to get off your chest.

Carrie-Ann:

That was the words I used, which is why what you said resonated.

Carrie-Ann:

And actually that was really powerful because although people started in

Carrie-Ann:

some in a frustrated place, some in an angry place mostly coming from anxiety.

Carrie-Ann:

By the time we'd spent time together and just allowed

Carrie-Ann:

people to share how they felt.

Carrie-Ann:

They actually said at the end, Thank you so much.

Carrie-Ann:

We haven't had the opportunity ever to do that.

Carrie-Ann:

We just feel like a group of staff, who keep being passed from pillar to

Carrie-Ann:

post and nobody really cares about us.

Carrie-Ann:

And actually we really feel that you valued us by giving

Carrie-Ann:

us that space to share.

Carrie-Ann:

So that, you know, is really important, isn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

Doing that read in the room and and working out.

Carrie-Ann:

How are you gonna get a, a positive outcome from something which

Carrie-Ann:

might not be the outcome you, you intended for when you went in?

Lee:

And it's interesting because I don't know that situation, but my, my

Lee:

assumption would be that maybe past leaders who've tried to go in and talk,

Lee:

they've, they have tried to talk at, and they've made assumptions about the

Lee:

characters they're talking to and how they'll respond to it, which is why that

Lee:

hostility is built and built and built.

Carrie-Ann:

It's interesting I was in another conversation at work today

Carrie-Ann:

where we were talking about sometimes trying to shift that culture and it was

Carrie-Ann:

about being more compassionate in the workplace, but to demonstrate and, and

Carrie-Ann:

be more compassionate sometimes there's a reconciliation that needs to happen

Carrie-Ann:

with people's previous experiences.

Carrie-Ann:

And again, it was about that you can say things, but actually if you don't fully

Carrie-Ann:

embrace and allow people to bring out that feeling of their past experiences.

Carrie-Ann:

You're never gonna be in a place where you'll truly

Carrie-Ann:

engage and have a conversation.

Carrie-Ann:

So we talked about this earlier around an important part of demonstrating

Carrie-Ann:

that you've listened is actually taking action on what you've heard . So for me

Carrie-Ann:

that feels like a really important part of being a good listener as a leader.

Carrie-Ann:

How do we do that?

Carrie-Ann:

What should we do with what we hear?

Carrie-Ann:

As a leader, we're gonna hear a lot.

Lee:

Mm mm.

Carrie-Ann:

If we are in listening mode, we are hearing a lot.

Carrie-Ann:

So what do we do with what we hear and, and how do we manage

Carrie-Ann:

that in our leadership roles?

Lee:

There isn't a one size fits all solution I'm afraid of.

Lee:

I, I'd be a millionaire if I could figure out what that was,

Carrie-Ann:

you wouldn't be sat here on a podcast with me talking about it.

Carrie-Ann:

You'd, you'd have your own.

Lee:

but I do think there are systems that you need to put in place to help

Lee:

you filter and sort everything that you hear that are bespoke, I suppose

Lee:

to the questions going back to like my original point, the questions

Lee:

that you're seeking to answer.

Lee:

I think you can't promise that you're gonna fix everything

Lee:

or respond to everything.

Lee:

And normally you'll find that themes will come out of the discussions

Lee:

or conversations that you're having that will either create

Lee:

action points or point you in the direction of doing some further work.

Lee:

So there might be some low hanging fruit that you can deal with there

Lee:

and then, , those quick wins that help build confidence in people that

Lee:

you are listening whilst you then focus on the bigger strategic stuff.

Lee:

And then you'll, you've probably got those anomalies that requires your

Lee:

personal judgment on who you think the right person is, potentially,

Lee:

what the ramifications are if you do take action or don't take action.

Lee:

So a lot of it's down to your personal.

Lee:

What's the question you're trying to answer as a leader and how does it

Lee:

feed into the bigger picture of, of, of work and some of your personal judgment?

Lee:

I think you need to be clear about the poop.

Carrie-Ann:

So great clarity.

Carrie-Ann:

Clarity of purpose.

Lee:

Yes.

Lee:

You need to be clear about the purpose and your process of listening.

Lee:

So are you formally listening?

Lee:

Is it something informal?

Lee:

Is it something that could be fed into existing mechanisms?

Lee:

Cause your organization will already have some, Um, do you have a process

Lee:

of feeding back to individuals about stuff that you've heard or monitoring

Lee:

if you've passed it on to someone else?

Lee:

Because that can be a real integrity issue for you if it looks like you've passed

Lee:

the buck and, and nothing's happened.

Lee:

When the work I do with, with new leaders and when they start job, for

Lee:

example, I always recommend that they purposely do some form of listening

Lee:

exercise, and always say, Be clear on the questions you want to be answered.

Lee:

Be open about what your process is gonna be.

Lee:

Don't take things at face value.

Lee:

We need to triangulate and test what you are hearing.

Lee:

Then pick some quick wins, and the rest of it starts to form your

Lee:

strategic narrative and priorities.

Carrie-Ann:

I'm just reflecting on what you've said about, you know,

Carrie-Ann:

passing the buck and that you might be asking other people to take action on

Carrie-Ann:

something because it sits in their remit.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think there is something really important for you as a leader to, to

Carrie-Ann:

really have worked up and understood and had, have conversations with other

Carrie-Ann:

people who might be tasked with taking the action based on the things that you hear.

Carrie-Ann:

And, and I have had examples in organizations that I've worked in

Carrie-Ann:

where not having those relationships and connections and conversations

Carrie-Ann:

has potentially backfired.

Carrie-Ann:

So, for example, one of the organizations I worked in had to sort of ask the chief

Carrie-Ann:

exec kind of scheme, and the chief exec was very much like, you know, whatever

Carrie-Ann:

you ask for, I'll deliver for you.

Carrie-Ann:

And it's like, Oh, that's really not setting the right expectation in

Carrie-Ann:

tone

Lee:

rise and give me free parking

Carrie-Ann:

yeah, exactly.

Carrie-Ann:

But then, but then some of it was, was not massive, big things like that.

Carrie-Ann:

But actually because, um, people were going directly to the chief exec with

Carrie-Ann:

probably, Very individual personal things that have happened in their team.

Carrie-Ann:

The chief exec didn't have that background of and context of like why

Carrie-Ann:

a certain decision might have been taken that, that somebody maybe doesn't

Carrie-Ann:

like, and then was almost reversing those decisions by just saying,

Carrie-Ann:

Well, yes, of course you can do that.

Carrie-Ann:

And yes, of course you can have this and take I one of them, take 20

Carrie-Ann:

days off even though you've got no leave left to walk the Great Wall of

Carrie-Ann:

China without really thinking about the implications for other people.

Carrie-Ann:

So now it's like, well, now we're not being consistent with the way

Carrie-Ann:

we are applying some things in this organization, which is creating inequity

Carrie-Ann:

and unfairness for people, and you are undermining other leaders in the

Carrie-Ann:

organization who've taken a different decision because you've been almost too

Carrie-Ann:

quick to respond to what you've heard.

Carrie-Ann:

Rather than doing that bit of investigating to kind of go,

Carrie-Ann:

Okay, what's the context before I decide what action to take?

Carrie-Ann:

So I think sometimes, as much as I've said, for me, the taking action bit is, is

Carrie-Ann:

a really important element of listening.

Carrie-Ann:

Doing that in a knee jerk way can can actually undo quite a lot of good.

Lee:

But demonstrating you've listened and taken action could

Lee:

be as simple as saying to someone, I've, I've heard what you've said.

Lee:

I'm gonna show some empathy and this is now what I'm going to do to

Lee:

try and make sure that your query or whatever is responded to, I'm

Lee:

gonna go to this person and then they will look into it or whatever.

Lee:

So it, it could be about signaling your intent for someone else

Lee:

to deal with it on your behalf.

Lee:

That doesn't mean you've, you've not listened, but it's how you handle that.

Lee:

I think that's really important.

Lee:

I'd say the other things that you can do to show you've listened so

Lee:

that playing back what you've heard.

Lee:

But also like the use of storytelling.

Lee:

We did that episode about storytelling.

Lee:

I think that's a really powerful way, particularly in an organization

Lee:

or perhaps even to your customer group or whomever, is to tell

Lee:

stories of change that's happened as a result of hearing from people.

Lee:

Um, and that people will feel they can recognize themselves in that

Lee:

story, which builds that connection.

Carrie-Ann:

There will be things that we hear as leaders that genuinely

Carrie-Ann:

we don't maybe have the authority, autonomy, power to actually act on.

Carrie-Ann:

So, you know, if I think about the fact that I work in, in the NHS part

Carrie-Ann:

of my day job, you know, there's always those conversations about,

Carrie-Ann:

well, actually you're not listening to us because we wanna be paid more.

Carrie-Ann:

But as local leaders, there's very little autonomy to do very much about

Carrie-Ann:

that because that is a national issue.

Carrie-Ann:

So How do you handle those sorts of conversations when, when you are hearing

Carrie-Ann:

what people have said, but you genuinely feel like you can't take the action

Carrie-Ann:

that, that people are requesting of?

Lee:

I think there are occasions where you can't take the actions.

Lee:

I think there will also be occasions where you won't take an action because

Lee:

you just don't think it's right.

Lee:

, um,

Carrie-Ann:

Good point.

Carrie-Ann:

Very good point.

Lee:

So I think in, in both cases, you need to be honest about that and people

Lee:

might not like the response, but they're gonna respect the honesty that you bring.

Lee:

You might struggle with that if you are a people pleaser or you don't like

Lee:

confrontation, and those are skills you are gonna need to work on separately.

Lee:

But I think the, the most important thing is to say what you, what is

Lee:

within and, and outside the scope of your ability to, to do something about.

Lee:

And even if it fits into, let's say I was talking about the low hanging fruit,

Lee:

quick wins versus long, bigger strategic stuff, that's, that's quite easy to say,

Lee:

Look, this is what we can do here and now.

Lee:

And then I've heard other things from you that's really important and that's

Lee:

gonna play into this piece of work that we're gonna do then, and we'll come back

Lee:

out and talk to you in a bit more detail so you can signal to people your intent.

Lee:

And if you can't do something or you won't do something, be honest about why.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah, I love that.

Carrie-Ann:

Signal intent, I think is one of the things that I'm really hearing

Carrie-Ann:

quite strongly that resonates with me for sure in that space.

Carrie-Ann:

It feels like we're getting to that point in the episode where we are on the,

Carrie-Ann:

giving a bit of advice, uh, top takeaways.

Carrie-Ann:

So what would be your how-tos around how to demonstrate and

Carrie-Ann:

how to really listen as a leader.

Lee:

I think going back to how, so actually consider what are your channels

Lee:

and mechanisms to listen and the questions that you are seeking to answer

Lee:

is a really important starting point.

Lee:

You need to make sure you're not being too sensitive or defensive.

Lee:

So if you feel that is something that might come out when you are hearing things

Lee:

you don't like, for example, then that's potentially something you need to work on.

Lee:

Similarly, if you're struggling to listen properly, Or you're feeling

Lee:

overwhelmed with all the information and you're not quite sure what to do.

Lee:

But again, I think that's a signal that you perhaps need

Lee:

to work with someone else.

Lee:

And, it's a little test.

Lee:

Actually, I did this when I did my coach training and we had to

Lee:

have a conversation with someone.

Lee:

But not talk and we just had to let the other person fill the space.

Lee:

And you, when you have permission not to respond, it makes you listen

Lee:

in a completely different way.

Lee:

So I, you know, I'm not suggesting that you go out to your next town

Lee:

hall, staff q and a session, just stand there staring at people.

Carrie-Ann:

like some sort of episode of a weird Netflix series.

Lee:

Be clear that's what you're gonna do.

Lee:

But have a conversation with someone where you actually, your objective

Lee:

is not to reply or respond in any way and see what it does to you.

Carrie-Ann:

I guess for me, in terms of just adding to that, there's

Carrie-Ann:

something for me about being present.

Carrie-Ann:

So if you are going to, to be in listening mode and you are actively seeking out

Carrie-Ann:

the views of others, you must be present in that space and show that you are

Carrie-Ann:

present, you're not being distracted by other things going on around you.

Carrie-Ann:

You're not sat there checking your phone, uh, whilst you're

Carrie-Ann:

having those conversations.

Carrie-Ann:

Allow people to have that space as you've said, and and share

Carrie-Ann:

what they want you to hear.

Carrie-Ann:

For sure.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think there's just something for me about being curious.

Carrie-Ann:

Don't always, some of the things we've talked about here is about

Carrie-Ann:

always taking things on face value.

Carrie-Ann:

When you're having some of those conversations, look out for those

Carrie-Ann:

other cues, what words people are using, and then say it from their

Carrie-Ann:

mouths might not quite align with maybe some of the other things we've talked

Carrie-Ann:

about around how you can really work out what somebody's trying to say.

Carrie-Ann:

So be curious, dig deeper, and ask more questions would probably

Carrie-Ann:

be my, my additional takeaways.

Lee:

I have one further one, sorry.

Lee:

Which is, I think the whole conversation that we've had around listening and

Lee:

hearing is actually just a metaphor to paying attention to all the things,

Lee:

whether it's written stuff that's being said to you, whether it's

Lee:

things that you are visually seeing.

Lee:

It's not necessarily everything that comes through your ears,

Carrie-Ann:

Wish people could see the face Lee's just pulled at the end

Carrie-Ann:

of that, but I knew what you meant.

Carrie-Ann:

And she pointed at her own ears just in case we didn't know where they were.

Carrie-Ann:

So what an apt way to end an episode about listening.