September 2011

Creative Communication: Learning to Listen, Part 1

It is well-known that in business and organizational effectiveness, clear communication is key. There’s a substantial amount of information and training available on how to communicate: books, articles, workshops, seminars, the list goes on and on. Have you noticed that the bulk of these resources are predominantly focused on what’s said or not said, speaking powerfully, public speaking, persuasion, influence, negotiation, etc.?

In other words, it’s all about talking.

Any focus on the other side of the equation, on listening, is largely relegated to tactics and strategies that are intended to set you up well for your turn to talk. Even the classic “active listening” approach is speaking-heavy: repeat back what they said to (at least appear to) confirm that you heard it, and then take your turn to talk.

What if your listening is just as crucial as your speaking? I assert that it is. More relevantly, what if what we think is real listening actually isn’t? What if you could create a whole new level of clarity, relatedness and power in your relationships and interactions- and the pathway to that result is being willing to see and acknowledge the degree to which you haven’t been listening? I assert that you can.

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What Drives Extraordinary Performance?

What is it that drives human beings to extraordinary performance?  When I say, “extraordinary performance,” I am speaking about performance beyond what is predictable.  The domain in which it occurs can be business, athletics, science, or anywhere.  I suggest that there is a palpable commonality between our client, the physicist, working to advance the study of Turbulence Theory, and the individual who sets out to climb Everest/double organizational productivity/take a new company from innovation to public company, etc.

I am writing this from the middle check point on the route of the Adirondack 540, Ultracycling race.  For those of you who don’t know, this is a bit of an obsession of mine.  I am a member of the board of the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association and spend much of my time on the bike, riding in big circles and striving for more. This year I am not at a fitness level that makes is reasonable to participate in this event with four separate races of 136, 262, 408 and 544 miles.

I will not be offering an answer here, only questions.  And I suggest that these questions are the same whether we are talking about the people I am supporting here today, or the people who work in our companies. What makes human beings strive for performance? What makes people run marathons or climb big mountains?  What makes them strive to win championships or lift more weight, go faster than they ever have before, make more money, invent new means of production or new avenues for sales?

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