THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – What makes you happy and why?

New-Intl-Day-HappinessMarch 20th is designated as the United Nations International Day of Happiness, so lets reclaim as many happy moments as possible and discuss/share what makes us happy.  This is fundamental to both our professional success AND maintaining a healthy work/life balance and it is based on interaction and feeling. Basic and real connection. That’s magnificent engagement – a thing most organisations strive to obtain.

In fact, according to a recent survey by the charity Action for Happiness, 87% of people would pick being happy over money, and the chief reason for happiness was their relationships with their friends and family. In other words: not money or what it can buy.

The charity’s Director of Action for Happiness Mark Williamson said: “The UN Day of Happiness is about the fact that happiness really matters. It matters for us and our loved ones – and it matters for our countries and leaders too. All around the world, people are recognising that real progress is about more than just growing the economy – it’s about increasing human happiness and wellbeing”.

Join the movement raising awareness of what makes people happy, and don’t forget to SHARE the pic that makes you happy more than anything else.  So lets try and bottle it, if only for a day and say why it makes you happy. Here are the pictures that always make me smile, I shared them on Facebook and Twitter earlier this morning:

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 09.46.37

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Why do they make me happy?  Its about people, time and place.  The combination of all three makes me very happy indeed.  The first pic is one of only two occasions I’ve managed to get the most special people in my life in the place that means the most to me = happiness overload!!  The second is a wonderful consequence of the first!  The next time I get to update the first picture is on 9th August this year, when we are all in this special same place yet again, at the marriage of our second son.

So, this is about right people, in the right place, at the right time.  A level of engagement organisations strive to achieve and pay many £££££ for.  If each of us was to take just ONE lesson from our happiness pictures, and translate that lesson into the workplace, it would be a much happier place for everyone.  My lesson, for many years now, involves: patience/tolerance/acceptance/making the most of our differences/enjoying what we are all striving for at the time/finding the positive excitement in our goals/building better relationships.  I’ve tried to live these values at home, and in work.  Only those I’ve lived and worked with can say if I’ve achieved it.

Someone provided me with some formal 360 feedback once that said (and I quote): “Sharon does everything possible to build happy, harmonious and productive teams”.  I guess I succeeded a bit 🙂

What would your lesson be?

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THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Look up, not down!

How often do you look up to people? Do you endeavour to seek and find the good in everyone you meet, or do you make judgement calls based on first sight. What do you think of this?

Now look at yourself and answer this question honestly!

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – World Book Day – what are you reading?

darwinThis was a question asked by the Chartered Management Institute last month, of future leaders.  The CMI launched an essay competition for those under 30, focussing specifically on this question.  For any future young leaders amongst our readers, the competition can be found HERE.  The deadline for submissions is 15th March 2014.

Management and leadership competence and development has been a long-time interest of mine.  Keeping up to date with current thinking is hugely important to Aresko generally is I am to be able to add value to any client situation.

So, given its World Book Day today, I thought it would be timely to share what we are currently reading to enhance our thinking AND declare what our favourite management text is, and why.

I am currently reading: “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook (previously Google and the US Treasury Department).  It’s about her story of women, work and the will to lead.  It starts with her experiences as a senior executive at Google in her first pregnancy and outlines (now) obvious workplace modifications to enable organisations to keep the skills and experience of pregnant female employees – of whatever level.  It continues in this vein, outlining why some and not others “lean in” and tackle issues in the workplace which make things better for bigger numbers of people, i.e. leadership examples.  It’s a marvellous account of  the value of women vis a vie the context of the workplace being male oriented.  I like the book a lot and it never ceases to amaze me why many women shy away from leadership roles in the way that men never would.  I’ve always been a bit of a “I-feel-so-strongly-about-that,-I’m-going-to-do-anything-I-can-to-make-it-better” kind of woman.  Many moons ago, my dear Dad called me “goal orientated” and it was the first time that phrase had ever touched my young years.  Little did I know it would form the majority of my professional life experiences in the future!

Again, many moons ago (2001 to be precise as I rediscovered the book today and when opening it found I had written my name and the date on the inside cover.  This is a habit I have with books, it plants them firmly in a specific time of my life), I read a tiny little book called:  “Who Moved My Cheese” by Dr Spencer Johnson.  I read it just because I was told to read it.  It was on my reading list for my MBA which I was undertaking at the time.  I opened it with trepidation and discovered a fabulous little story of how to cope and deal with change.  Cheese being a metaphore for whatever the big thing is in your life that you desperately want and need to happen at the time.

It is 73 pages of big writing which had a profound inspiration on my future career pathway.  You can read it easily in an hour or two and I will promise you, you will read it many times thereafter.  Personally, I’ve probably read this about a dozen times now.  I’ve moved house 3 times since I first read it and its always been in the “must not lose” box when packing.

It’s the story of some mice in a maze trying to find the cheese.  It explains why some are more successful than others at the task and the wider application of the messages it contains is never-ending!  I would love you to read it too and let me know what you think.

What are you currently reading and influenced by?  What would be your pivotal framework for that essay we talked about at the beginning of this post, if you were (or indeed you are) entering that competition?

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – What is “discretionary effort?”

keep-calm-and-go-the-extra-mile-6The final aspect of enhancing staff engagement brings us to the point of extracting maximum discretionary effort out of our staff.  We might personally be of the mindset that we truly believe all employees will always give their all due to a commitment to the organisation or similar (usually we will believe this given our own motivation and values in the workplace), but the reality is often very different! So what is “discretionary effort” and how do we go about motivating it?

Discretionary effort is the level of effort people could give if they wanted to, over and above what is absolutely required.  It’s what performance appraisals are all about – identifying where more of this can be found and utilised from each and every individual.  It’s probably why performance appraisals are universally loathed by all – when it’s performed badly with those who already feel like they are giving the organisation everything they have to offer, and they are asked for more, or left feeling unappreciated or unvalued for their contributions to date.  There is definitely a knack to extracting discretionary effort!

Some organisations achieve this (thought to be approximately c30%) through headhunting and luring the best employees away with offers of a stake in the organisation.  This is typical if such employees are motivated by that very commitment mentioned earlier.  John Lewis for example gives all permanent, full time employees shares in the company so they have instant ownership over maximising sales figures and other bottom line activities.

During performance appraisals, our managers are likely to see any one (or more!) of five faces from us.  We’ve all seen these faces on others, but how many of us are aware enough to recognise when we are displaying them ourselves?  Which one are you currently wearing?

  1. The Diva: thinks they are a world class performer and has a great deal of opinion about how others should do their jobs!  They are usually high performers in at least one aspect of their role, which has given them plenty of indication that everything they do is a right judgement.  The problem is, they have plenty of development needs in other areas of their roles but they have vastly under-developed self awareness skills and this produces real blind spots.  They are often specialists. In any self assessment exercise, they will rate themselves highly.  They can often be disruptive to any team scenario.  This face produces difficult conversations and requires strong management.  Motivation and incentivisation of this face, to produce high commitment and engagement levels is difficult but essential. Consider the questions people ask and answer during any engagement survey because if left unchecked, this face will produce disproportionate influence on the rest of the team.
  2. The Deflector: lots of excuses and explanations about why they CAN’T do something or why something CAN’T happen, in their experience. These reasons are always outside their span of control and their entire behaviour is governed by this concept of fate and luck.  They will believe you as their manager are part of the overall problem.  This is the most problematic face to motivate and incentivise to engage.  They can be decent performers but the more bureaucratic your organisation becomes, the more evidence of Deflectors you will find.  Left unchecked, discretionary effort will be extinct!
  3. The 9 to 5er: Classic face.  They have very set schedules and cut off easily at certain times.  Often a steady performer but does only that which is required and absolutely no more.  Discretionary effort can often be “bought” with this face through offering added flexibility, particularly if it is involuntary, as a result of caring needs etc.  Incentivisation and motivation is often through time segmentation so its important to understand what makes your people tick.
  4. The Upwardly Mobile: This is the fun face!  These folk seek to excel but often can’t see what their next career step might be.  This face is great to have around and incentivisation and motivation is often through giving recognition and regular feedback.  But they crave your interest in them and beware if you leave them alone for too long without stroking.  Don’t let the deflector anywhere near them!  They need intensive coaching but discretionary effort can be achieved if stroked regularly. They like to describe, in detail, how they will or are going about things and will be seeking reinforcement regularly.  However, because they are so unsure of their own abilities, they are unlikely to be seen as influencers for, or by, others. They can be engaged through involvement in activity, but are rarely leaders of others due to their insecurity in their own competence.
  5. The Star: The best face of the bunch.  They are in control of their area of responsibility and you need to keep them!  High confidence and a magnet for others to seek guidance from.  They are influential throughout the organisation, and  usually profoundly self-aware.  They are often autonomous and will act without you even having to steer. Incentivising and motivating your Stars is usually achieved from giving them room to act independently on occasions, re-engaging them with exciting initiatives etc.  Once they are excited about something, you automatically have a highly engaged individual who will engage others infectiously.

So this series has looked at producing highly engaged individuals, with the potential for high discretionary effort. If only a third of the workforce are engaged, then only a third are currently providing that vital discretionary effort all organisations are seeking for improvement and success.   And if discretionary effort can be up to 30%, then this third of the workforce are clearly carrying the rest.

Now isn’t that a profound thought for all managers wishing to improve their managerial skills!

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Engagement: more than just words on a page

1240487_639765176056391_1435228163_nEmployee engagement used to be considered the soft skills of management.  Now it’s considered imperative and all “good” organisations will have a Staff Engagement Strategy of some sorts, in place.  The leadership makes a lot of resources available to produce strategies and they know how important staff engagement is. But how useful are these strategies to the day job, and is implementation of them under-resourced?  Basically, how well does that strategy work in your workplace?  It’s a telling sign of how well any organisation “lives the values it says it has adopted” to ask any member of staff what is the organisation value they are mostly driven by.

A recent Gallup pole suggested that, in 47% of organisations surveyed, staff engagement was the most important HR challenge.  That is an amazing statistic!  Particularly when you look at the results, which are pretty dismal: only 30% of staff were engaged; 18% were actively disengaged; with the remaining 52% not engaged. This means MERELY A THIRD OF THE GIVEN WORKFORCE ARE CONVINCED OF THE VISION, MISSION, VALUES AND OBJECTIVES OF THIER ORGANISATION.  This is a truly disgraceful situation.  Organisations should be ashamed of their organisation development initiatives as a result of this survey!

So for the next 5 weeks, we are going to address 5 simple steps to getting out of this dismal rut.  It’s not rocket science but it takes courage and a dedicated management team to turn such a situation around. Most of all, it takes consistent effort and commitment on a daily basis.

Whilst every organisation is different and will require it’s own engagement approach, there are key areas every one of them should focus on to get out, and stay out, of this engagement abyss:

Step 1: Create clear and credible values that are KNOWN and UNDERSTOOD;

Step 2: Build a healthy culture INTENTIONALLY;

Step 3: Insist on good MANAGER HYGIENE;

Step 4: Create platforms for POSITIVITY; and

Step 5: Understand what MOTIVATES your workforce and RECOGNISE and REWARD it.

So this week, we have a few hints and tips centred around clear and credible values.

“Those who say they “know and understand” the values of their organisation are 30x more likely to be fully engaged”

The absence of any recognition of the values which bind the organisation as one collective force, guarantees that staff will be disengaged.  Below are some practical tips on ensuring values are truly embedded in your organisation:

  • Have senior managers talk about them regularly. The values should be part of the daily vernacular;
  • Make them part of your corporate communications strategy. Internal and external communications should not only contain references to the core values, but translate them into the “way we do things around here”;
  • Link daily, weekly, monthly accomplishments to the values.  NEVER miss an opportunity to reference the role of values in any individual, team or directorate accomplishment.  They need to be seen and felt to be DRIVERS of effort.

Can you recognise any systematic way your organisation connects staff behaviour and work effort to the core values?  What happens in your workplace that enables the values to come to life on a daily basis?

If you are struggling to answer those two questions, then you are certainly not alone.  I recently facilitated a workshop of 30+ staff and not one person there could recount an organisation value to me.  How could engagement become infectious in that organisation if nobody knew what glue was supposedly holding them together?

A healthy organisation culture is the easiest way to avoid the engagement abyss – but engagement and culture are the chicken and egg equivalent in organisational life.  More about culture at another time, the foreseeable future focusses on engagement hints and tips.

If you have any tips to share about how to make organisation values known, please do so.  Easy to say, difficult to embed, so how have you gone about it in the past?

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Do you know your management style?

If you’ve been in work for even a nanosecond, you will have noticed that there are various styles that different managers display, sometimes depending upon the situation.  Sometimes, individuals have a strong preference for one particular style, and it is when the context or the circumstance dictates that an alternative style is called for, that you being to see whether you have a strong or a weak manager in your midsts!

There are 6 commonly recognised management styles. They are: 

DIRECTIVEdirector  

This is a rather coercive style which seeks instant compliance and appears quite bossy.  You will notice it from a style and tone of voice which dictates “do as I say or beware” and you hear it from those who are high on the control spectrum.  They seem to think folk are motivated by orders or even threats and their whole turn of conversation, features these sorts of overtones.

This is REALLY EFFECTIVE in time of crisis or when its very risky not to follow orders, so it definitely has its place. Unfortunately, its REALLY INEFFECTIVE when the workforce is skilled or used to acting on their own initiative, as they soon become resentful and very frustrated with what they see, as micromanagement.

firmbutfair

AUTHORITATIVE

This is a visionary style and usually provides more of a long-term direction for the workforce. It’s characterised by being firm but fair and provides motivation through clear standards, credibility and integrity.  These managers earn respect and apply fairness at every point.  They are highly knowledgeable and often have specialist authority in any workplace.

This is REALLY INEFFECTIVE when staff need development, or the vision is vague as people won’t follow it if they don’t believe in it, no matter how much the manager knows about it.

affiliativeAFFILIATIVE

This manager primarily creates harmony in the workplace, horizontally and vertically.  They are very people oriented and always put people before task.  They have a tendency to avoid conflict but are excellent motivational managers and they can often pick a project up off its knees when its stalled.  This style is HIGHLY EFFECTIVE when combined with other styles and is the one most often matched with others.  They are born counsellors or mediators. LESS EFFECTIVE in times of crisis or when performance needs tackling.

PARTICIPATIVE participative

The Democrat builds commitment and consensus with the workforce.  They are the manager that most seeks out and uses diversity in the team and always values everyone’s voice and input. They are very good indeed at motivating by rewarding individual and team efforts.  They are great team builders and VERY EFFECTIVE in steady work environments. If close supervision is required, or a crisis appears, these make for pretty poor leaders in these circumstances.

Screenshot 2013-11-14 17.14.57PACE SETTERS

Got to love these ones! They are profoundly driven, wanting to be first, fastest, highest, best achievers.  Exhausting usually! They very often resort to doing things themselves, in the vein hope that others will follow.  Highly motivated themselves, expects very high standards of everyone around them. Great when they are managing experts or highly competent teams who desire and require very little direction indeed.  HOPELESS when the goal or workload is dependent on the efforts of others who require direction, coercion, or explanation.

COACHINGcoaching

This manager loves long-term development of others. They  make it their mission in life! A very developmental manager, they help and encourage others to develop their strengths and weaknesses in order to reach personal potential.  Always seeking and providing developmental opportunities and recognises when others are motivated by improvement and recognition of all kinds.  They are less effective if the manager themselves are inexperienced and this type of manager grows from experience and self development.  They love translating their experience into the benefit of others.

Of course, you can now see how circumstances and/or context will best require different styles in any one manager.  The best managers can see what is required of any situation and adapt accordingly.  Sounds simple, but it takes years of practice to flip between styles and deliver it effectively.

Have you seen style-flipping or have you seen when others have struggled to suit the style to the situation?  How has these styles made you feel when you’ve been in particular team situations?  Please do let me know.

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Do you have three wishes?

threewisheslogoWhat is it that, if someone could grant you three wishes, you would wish to change in work tomorrow?  What are the issues which would make your professional life more enjoyable, productive or satisfying?

Would it surprise you to know that, without even knowing what they are, you are the author of making them happen?  There is absolutely no use worrying over things outside of your control, so act on those things that are within your control instead and I assure you that you will feel better about it.  Having  a good problem solving strategy in your pocket has been proven to underpin better health and enhanced self-esteem. So its win-win whichever way you look at it.

Coping mechanisms come in all shapes and sizes but roughly fall into three main groups:

  • Appraisal-focused strategies occur when the person modifies the way they think, for example: employing denial or distancing oneself from the problem. People may alter the way they think about a problem by altering their goals and values, such as by seeing the humour in a situation: some have suggested that humour may play a greater role as a stress moderator among women than men.  It’s a well known point that if you change the way you look at things, then the things you look at will change too;
  • People using problem-focused strategies try to deal with the cause of their problem. They do this by finding out information on the problem and learning new skills to manage the problem. Problem-focused coping is aimed at changing or eliminating the source of the stress. They ask loads of questions in any conversation to try and extract as much detail as they can.  They are born investigators and the very best problem-focussed folk follow a recognisable pattern of:
  1. define the problem
  2. gather relevant information
  3. identify possible causes
  4. identify possible solution
  5. test possible solution
  6. would out solution
  7. make a decision
  8. monitor results
  • Emotion-focused strategies involve releasing pent-up emotions, distracting oneself, managing hostile feelings, meditating or using systematic relaxation procedures. Emotion-focused coping is oriented toward managing the emotions that accompany the perception of stress.  For those choosing these kinds of strategy, a good grasp of emotional intelligence is required. You will  need to know and understand the 5 elements of EI:
  1. self awareness – understand yourself, your strengths and weaknesses and how you appear to others
  2. self regulation – master the ability to control yourself and think before you act
  3. motivation – know what your drive to succeed is grounded in
  4. empathy – master understanding other peoples’ viewpoints, whether or not you agree with them, appreciate where they are coming from and understand how they reach their conclusions
  5. social skills – develop your interpersonal and communication skills towards others.

Typically, people use a mixture of all three types of coping strategies, and coping skills will usually change over time. All these methods can prove useful, but some claim that those using problem-focused coping strategies will adjust better to the challenges they will inevitably face over time, particularly when promoted and issues become more complex and often multi-faceted.  Problem-focused coping mechanisms may allow an individual greater perceived control over their problem, whereas emotion-focused coping may sometimes lead to a reduction in perceived control.

It’s useful to master them all in due course.  A great coach can help of course 🙂

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Love or loathe Resource Investigators?

RIWith the opening of the Llandovery Hub (see last blog post), brings a great opportunity to get together with other small local business folk.  It provides a place to meet and mingle and secure a professional working environment with all modern office conveniences.  This pitches very well to the Belbin Team Role called Resource Investigator, of which I am one 🙂  So when I was contacted about it, it immediately sparked my imagination as to what was possible and I’m all over it like a rash!

So what are my RESOURCE INVESTIGATOR characteristics then?  We are relaxed, sociable and gregarious, with an interest that is easily aroused (one phone call got me hooked on the concept). We are good at communicating with people both inside and outside the organisation. We are natural negotiators and are adept at exploring new opportunities and developing contacts. Our responses tend to be positive and enthusiastic, though we are prone to put things down as quickly as we pick them up.

The RESOURCE INVESTIGATORS are usually the team members who go out of the group and bring ideas, information and developments back to it from all over the place. We have an ability to think on our feet and to probe others for information. We make friends easily because of our own outgoing and very amiable nature. We are rarely in our offices, and when we are we are probably on the telephone. I have numerous examples of this when I was corporate office bound!  Always popping to see someone and check something out.  In fact, the receptionist once made me a sign for my door for when I was on the phone which said: “don’t even think about knocking” which was a joke, as my door was always open and I would often flag folk to come in whilst talking to someone else!  We are the teams’ salesmen, diplomats and liaison-officers; always exploring new possibilities in the wider world outside. Our ability to stimulate ideas and encourage innovation by this activity would lead most people to mistake us for ideas people, but we rarely have the radical originality that distinguishes the PLANT. Interestingly, my other team role is indeed Plant, so I often have whacky ideas too.  Just how difficult could I have seemed so some others in the office who craved peace and quiet?

Without the stimulus of others, for example in solitary jobs, RESOURCE INVESTIGATORS can become easily bored, demoralised and ineffective.  This is precisely why the Llandovery Hub is, in my mind, a fine asset to our community.  But I would say that wouldn’t I, being a resource investigator! So I love the idea and will definitely use the facility as I need to be around others and others instil the necessary discipline in me to focus and produce, otherwise I will float all over the place having a lovely time talking to loads of folk, but I will lack productivity.

Conversely, I’m hearing that the organiser of this fine facility is experiencing some criticism from others in the local community (are they Monitor Evaluators who can be characterised as overly critical and slow moving?) who merely see this as another office and are asking why people need an office if they have one at home etc?

I suspect a local initiative has suffered from a little lack of concept selling as its much, much more than merely “another office”. Have you come across an annoying resource investigator in your time and which characteristics have particularly challenged you in your day-to-day work? Could your team have succeeded (in your view) without one and if so, why do you think this?

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – What gets you REALLY worked up?

marissa-mayer

Image credit: VentureBeat

Ms Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! has been ruffling feathers yet again.  She did it a few months ago about home working, so we featured a poll here in this blog about whether you supported her view.  It couldn’t have got a lot of people energised (my poll that is) as I got nothing back – seems it was one of those “if it doesn’t affect me, what’s the point in contributing” issues.

Anyway, onwards and upwards, this week she’s done it again, so she might well be worth keeping an eye on!  Notoriety is not altogether a good thing.  I like quirky a lot, but there is only so much silly things someone in a VERY high position can say, before their reputation does down the pan and nobody listens anymore.  Particularly if you are a woman. So … consider this recent missive of hers:

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 12.15.55

Photography is one of my true loves.  In fact Aresko Photography has a blog of it’s own HERE.  And a comment like this is sure to get me REALLY worked up.  I’m still in awe of many professional photographers who are able to produce sheer works of art by standing on the same spot as me.  The great Ansel Adams said:

Ansel Adams

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” ― Ansel Adams

 However, according to Ms Mayer, this professional skill does not exist anymore.  Poppycock!

Here is a link to a rant, from a now extinct professional photographer on how it made her (yes it was a woman, get over it) feel.

This has been this week’s issue that has managed to ignite the fury in me.  Because I care about the issue.  What issues do you get passionate and energised about?

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Are you listening with all 6 ears?

ChineseSymbol

The Chinese character for the verb “to listen” tells us something significant about this skill.  It identifies 6 active elements of listening:

  • You – in your entirety or maximum attention
  • Eyes – as many as possible
  • One or a single undivided attention
  • the heart
  • the ear
  • thinking like a king

To listen actively will mean employing all 6 elements in equal measure – not merely one as we traditionally think, our ears.  This clearly distinguishes the difference between listening and just hearing and it sums up the problems I experience in the workplace on a regular basis.

To move from hearing to active listening, we need to overcome 12 blockages. You are bound to have noticed one or two of them in your everyday professional lives, if not more.  Are you guilty of any yourself?  These can be overcome.  Are you:

  1. COMPARING: do you instantly retort with “mine is better/worse/the same as yours”  This sort of retort puts a stop to compassion and empathy – it’s a competitive situation and it instantly stops real listening, ie getting to the root of what they are trying to tell you.  You are not employing your heart in the listening process;
  2. MIND READING: if you constantly draw conclusions based on vague misgivings, hunches, or projections, before someone has finished relating their story. You will be more concerned about your own feelings than theirs.  This again stops empathy and true understanding.  You are not giving your undivided attention;
  3. REHEARSING: Are they looking interested whilst you are busy rehearsing your responses to their words.  They have a point to make, a story to tell, or an objection to make clear, yet they are having to spend their time preparing to rebut, defend or manoeuvre your ideas instead.  You are not employing your eyes;
  4. FILTERING: the object here is to avoid problems.  If you avoid anger or are afraid of it, you will particularly pick up on “angry” signs. If you perceive none, then your mind might wander.  You will find yourself listening enough to see if a particular problem is coming and if it isn’t, then you fog out.  You are not thinking like a king;
  5. JUDGING: Almost everyone’s favourite this one!  Quick judgements based on prejudices or opinion allow us to write someone or something off as stupid, uninformed, or whatever.  Judgment is best done after knowing all the facts or knowing the background.  You are not employing your ears properly;
  6. DREAMING: Words trigger own private thoughts and associations and sometimes you or another find themselves floating off into that associated world.  By the time another trigger brings you back to the present, everyone is talking about something else You are not giving your full and undivided attention;
  7. IDENTIFYING: things others are saying triggers your own experience about a similar incident and if unrestrained, you launch happily into your own story about you (or you find yourself in the company of someone else who does this regularly). You are not employing your heart properly towards their issues;
  8. ADVISING: Whilst you are busy giving great advice about this or that, you are missing their points and don’t acknowledge the full situation. You are alone in your joy or pain of the advice at that point. You are not employing your eyes to focus on their issues;
  9. SPARRING: this often starts with looking for things to disagree with.  It continues with put-downs and discounts, e.g. “are you still doing that?” “you don’t know what you are talking about” or more subtle versions and it always ends badly. You are not employing your heart and neither are you thinking like a king;
  10. BEING RIGHT: low self esteem can often mean you or someone else has trouble with criticism or corrections so you or they go to great lengths in order to be “right”. It can manifest with over-riding others with a loud voice, insults, twisting facts, or with rigidity with other tactics. You are not employing your undivided attention;
  11. DERAILING: two fast ways to derail someone include: an abrupt change of subject when you or another is getting uncomfortable or bored; or joking it off – nothing is serious about the issue. You are not employing your heart to their issues;
  12. PLACATING: of course; yes really; terrific; incredible; right; wow.  This shows you or another wants to be liked in this relationship and agrees with almost everything.  Test it by feeding them mush and see what happens! You are neither employing your ears nor thinking like a king!

If you reframe your understanding of listening along the lines of the 6 core elements which the Chinese consider profound, then it all becomes crystal clear when you, or others are really listening doesn’t it? Test it out for yourself and let me know if or how it changes your thinking.

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