When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new”. This is a quote by Dalai Lama. Several leaders talk about their experiences with listening and how they have grown with it. More specifically, leaders also reflect on the criticality of listening when transitioning into a new context.
The reflection habit - decoding signal from the noise
Vinay talks about Narasimha Rao’s habit of reflection and journaling which helped him deal with the ecosystem he was in. Vinay talks about how Rao used the habit of journaling to develop a nuanced understanding of the context he was in which helped him deal with situations of grey effectively. He also talks about how he managed to gather intelligence around what was happening around him despite his lonely nature.
In Summary - Playing to Potential
Vinay talks about how Narasimha Rao was a fusion of Don Quixote (somebody who acted without too much thinking) and Hamlet (somebody who thought a lot but didn’t act as much) and how he brought the various shades of gray in his personality to bear as a leader. He talk about how we need to be cognizant of our environment when we think about what we do and how we implement it.
Art of asking good questions
Arun talks about how we could potentially move from understanding the data that somebody presents to us to going deeper in our understanding around why that data is important to the other person and how their experiences have led them to value what they value. He suggests that moving from the What to the Why and the How enables us to get to the next level of insight and intimacy with another person, especially if they are unlike us.
Steering by listening
Arun discusses his definition of a leader – “she or he who takes the first steps towards something that she or he deeply cares about and in ways that others wish to follow”. He talks about the criticality of listening to what other people care about as a key element of building engagement and followership.
Giving feedback by listening
Arun talks about insights from Dalai Lama (who also wrote the foreword for his book) who says that Listening is the first wisdom tool and it is a pre-requisite for reflection, compassion and self-knowledge. Arun discusses why it is important to create a space for the feedback to land on the other side and listening is the path to creating that space.
Having deep conversations at scale
Arun talks about how the depth of insight and intimacy gets compromised when we start having conversations across a large number of people. However, he shares his insights around how we could still make such conversations enriching by moving from the layer of data to the layer of how people form their opinions on the data.
The art of facilitation
Arun talks about how one must be clear about how one should think about structuring a meeting/conversation. He also suggests different formats depending on different depths to which we wish to go in the conversation. He makes the distinction between discussion, debate, deliberation and dialogue and urges us to be clear about what to use when.
Listening & "Thinking fast and slow"
Arun talks how we might not be feeding our “thinking slow” part of the brain enough (using the phrase made popular by Nobel Prize winning Economist - Daniel Kahneman). He talks about how people now have greater reach in connections but with often diminishing levels of richness. He quotes some recent studies where brains of children have shown to be influenced by this and how this is impacting several areas including how we feel about ourselves, our attitudes and empathy. He re-emphasizes the power of having reading as a habit to further build the muscle of “Thinking Slow”.
Being heard in a noisier world
Arun talks about the downsides of being a good listener and says that sometimes, it might be harder for people to notice you given the noise around them. He also goes on to talk about how sometimes, we embark on a path of making some noise (through marketing, branding etc.) to be heard but he says that sometimes that path changes who we are in the process and by the time we get to the point where we are being heard, we may not be the same listeners any more that we were when we started out. He quotes Sir John Dalberg-Acton and says that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
Transitioning across contexts
Arun talks about how one can listen to build credibility in a new context, especially if you are in a situation where you feel you do not have the capabilities on Day 0. He talks about how he learnt from Sumant Moolgaokar by watching him interact with people across hierarchies including how he would engage with the gardener. He shares that it is critical that we move from a “I will teach” to a “I will learn” mindset when you move to a new context.
Listening as a leader
Ambi talks about how effective CEOs set a climate so that their teams feel comfortable presenting risky ideas to them. He talks about how if you don’t set the right atmosphere in the organization, the team below you can hedge their bets and focus on managing their image with the CEO than really solving for what is right for the organization. He discusses how you can create a culture where the team focuses on “winning in the market” rather than “winning in the system”.
Smoke Signals in a relationship
Ambi talks about what it takes to develop and maintain an account over a period of several years. He speaks about the criticality of having tentacles across the organization to get a pulse on the relationship. He also underscores the criticality of the role of the CEO in ensuring that he/she sets the right climate for the troops to share any potential cracks that are appearing in the relationship.
TAGSBuilding trust Listening
The art of story telling
Ambi talks about what he has learnt from individuals like Late Pradipto Mahapatra, Late Mr Rohinton Aga and Mr M. Damodaran when it comes to storytelling. He draws the connection between storytelling and listening and discusses how it is not a skill-set that can be suddenly implanted into a team or an individual but has to be an integral part of the culture in an organization.
Indranil talks about the criticality of story-listening and how it is critical to ask the right questions to elicit stories. He speaks about the fact that we often have a propensity to ask the How, Why and What questions because we are looking for a net-view but sometimes the rich data can be found by asking the When and the Where questions when you take people back to a moment in time.
More from Indranil Chakraborty
Benefits of Journaling
Rich speaks about the benefits of journaling and refers to research in neuroscience that suggests that journaling is superior to typing on a digital device given the speed at which we do each of the activities. He also has some pointers around how people can start the practice of journaling in their lives.
Trap 2 - Feeling right does not mean it is right
Jennifer speaks about the distinction between feeling something is right versus thinking that something is right. She mentions that the feeling of rightness often arrives a few milliseconds before the actual process of cognitive certainty around a problem and this could lead to us forming an opinion first and then back-filling the data to suit the answer we end up feeling right about.
More from Jennifer Garvey Berger
Actively listening to your body
Jennifer speaks about how we end up giving a lot of importance to our mind and brains and don’t listen enough to our bodies. She speaks about how bodily signals around hunger, sleep and anxiety can fundamentally determine the choices we make and the quality of judgments. She speaks about an example where judges were known to be more generous after a meal than before one.
More from Jennifer Garvey Berger
Settling in - Rock climbing versus Running
RG speaks about how transitioning from one context to another is a bit like moving from driving a race car to rock climbing. You need to feel the surface before you transfer your weight and move forward. He speaks about the criticality of adopting (not appointing) mentors around you. These informal mentors often act as a feedback loop for the leader to course correct ensuring that hairline cracks becoming fractures.
Having the right relationship with the Board
RG speaks about the criticality having a healthy friendly relationship with the Board. He speaks about the narrative that CEOs often have around Board members being another “layer to manage”. He suggests that if we instead treat them as founts of wisdom and as mentors, there is a lot of value that CEOs can unlock from the Board members.
Bringing in adequate porosity
RG speaks about the role of the leader bringing in adequate open-ness and a prototyping mindset to the way he or she sculpts his or her ideas. If he or she has the habit of “baking it too much” in his or her mind and then present to the others as a sales pitch it might be bad for business and for the leader’s trust quotient with the ecosystem around.
Listen attentively; learn critically
Andrew speaks about the criticality of listening attentively to not just what is being said but also what is not being said. He says that the first element involved in judgment is about the quality of the data we consume, the extent to which we do our homework and our ability to ask the right questions to the people around us to get the information that really matters (than be inundated with volumes of information that may not be relevant).
More from Sir Andrew Likierman
Seek diversity, not validation
Andrew speaks about how we need to seek diverse inputs while going about a decision and not just look for people that reaffirm our view. He refers to Abraham Lincoln who had the reputation of assembling people around him that gave him a contra-view.
More from Sir Andrew Likierman
Identify, then challenge, biases
Andrew speaks about how we all have intellectual and emotional biases when we make decisions and he speaks about how we can minimize being influenced by the biases during such moments. He speaks about some tactical tips around how one of the organizations tackles this by unearthing prior biases that different people in the room might have towards a situation.
More from Sir Andrew Likierman
Limitations of the rational mind
Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi speaks about how he took the call to walk out his home into the unknown when he was 10. He speaks about the limitations of the rational mind and how we all tend to take actions and then often subsequently justify our decision using logic. He also speaks about the criticality of parents getting out of the way while bringing up children.
Listening to understand the nuances
Jen speaks about our tendency to look at conflict in simplistic and often binary terms. She speaks about a few techniques we could use to understand the various dimensions of the conflict and the interconnections between the various actors involved in the situation. She suggests that we don’t fall for the simplistic narrative that bubbles up immediately in front of us.
More from Dr. Jennifer Goldman Wetzler
Reluctance in accepting credit
Sally speaks about the phenomenon where women, when given positive feedback, might unnecessarily divert it to other causes or shine the light on other team members without adequate acknowledgement of their role in the outcomes. She speaks about the downsides of this behavior.
Dan speaks about why people find it extremely uncomfortable and awkward to talk about people strengths when they are around while when somebody passes away, we are generous with the eulogy. He speaks about why there should be a barrier in us having a “eulogy like” feedback conversation with a person when he/she is alive.
TAGSListening Self awareness
Relationships in a 2D world
Darleen speaks about some the nuances in building and maintaining relationships in a remote world. A lot of things that we might do in the rhythm of an offline world don’t apply. She speaks about some observations from the leaders she has worked with. Sahiba Singh from SpencerStuart India team also shares her perspectives on the topic.
Calculus of silence
Amy speaks about the asymmetry between silence and speaking up in the way people size up the trade offs. The upsides of speaking up are often felt (if at all) way down the line while the downsides of speaking up are felt right then and there. Given this pay-off structure, people often end up preferring silence to speaking up. Amy also speaks about Ray Dalio and Bridgewater Associates where he frames silence as an unethical choice.
Unlocking the power of the collective
Harsh speaks about how he thinks about assembling a good quality Board and extracting value from them.
Multiple levels of listening
Rajiv speaks about the different levels of listening. Level 1 – Focusing on the message; Level 2 – Focusing on the emotions of the communicator; Level 3 – Staying tuned to our own emotions as we receive the signals.
Council of Advisors
Pradeep speaks about how some of the kings assembled the right council of advisors around them to help them through complex situations. He refers to Malik Ambar, Ahilyabai, Serfoji and Aurangzeb in how they thought about getting advice from experts.
More from Pradeep Chakravarthy
Thomas speaks about the criticality of labelling emotions that the other person is experiencing and that could be an opportunity to get to a better place.
More from Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg
Karna and Krishna - the conversation that never happened
Raghu makes an interesting observation. He says that while Bhagwad Gita was a discussion between Krishna and Arjuna on the various dilemmas the latter was facing, it could have well been a conversation between Krishna and Karna. He says that Karna was so consumed by his hurt that he never even saw the dilemma and that was a missed opportunity. He connects this to several people and communities that might be going through a similar phenomenon.
More from Raghu Ananthanarayanan
The art of investigation
Manjari speaks about the art of investigation and interrogation. She first speaks about how the approach of investigation is often very different depending on the context of the crime. She goes on to speak about the role of empathy while conducting an investigation.
Allowing Venting Vs Coaching
Ethan speaks about how we could be effective in helping people deal with Chatter. He suggests that while we need to play a role of empathizing and listening to allow the person to vent, we also need to consider providing some coaching or widening of their perspective so that they could move forward. He speaks about the few people that he calls Chatter Advisors that he turns to where he gets a healthy balance of listening and Sounding Board support when he experiences Chatter. He speaks about some of the characteristics that leads them to be on his Speed Dial.
Healthy feedback - not crossing the net
David speaks about how there are three realities in any conversation between A and B. 1) A’s intent 2) A’s behaviour 3) Impact of A’s behaviour on B. A can see 1 and 2 and B can see 2 and 3. The challenge often happens when A makes up a story about 3 or B makes up a story about 1. David likens this to how we play tennis and urges us to stay on the same side of the net (2 being the metaphorical net in this case).
TAGSListening Driving Change
Idea to behavioural change
David speaks about why it is often so hard for us to stay on the same side of the net. He links that to our tendency to go for the simple plausible story and build misplaced conviction around it.
Projecting Power vs Humility
Jeffrey speaks about how the opposite of humility might be something like Narcissism. He also speaks about Jim Collins work around Level 5 Leadership where he speaks about combining Modesty with Fierce Determination. Jeffrey says that some of these leaders become modest after they become leaders but not on the way to the top.
Learning Zone vs Protective Zone
Michiel speaks about how our behaviour comes in the way of our learning when the stakes become higher. He speaks about the link between how team members listen and the link with learning.