It was my birthday recently, and as a milestone birthday, it was getting a heightened level of attention by people and one of my close groups of friends kept reminding me that I needed to do something special to celebrate. You might know that I go camping every year with my family to escape this form of attention and pressure and this year was no different. So I said to my friends, it's okay, I'm going camping (some of you are coming, by the way) and I'll organise something for later in the month. "But what are you going to actually do on the day, you can't be at home, why don't we go out for lunch or dinner?", they asked. The questions were endless. I replied, "I'll be perfectly fine. Let's sort it out on the day." "No", they said. The comments became more forceful. "You'll regret it if you don't do anything special to celebrate your birthday."
To which I sent a detailed message explaining that I wanted to wait until my parents were back from Tonga as I'd like them to be there. Plus I was still deciding what sort of party - sit down or big bash - do throw. But don't worry, I assured them, I am hosting a party. It will not be forgotten and I won't regret anything. "But we want to take you out for dinner." I looked at my husband, "What are they not getting? How many times and in how many ways do I have to tell them that I am planning something and so they don't need to keep on me like this. I'm starting to feel like they're not listening to me!!" I was exasperated, bordering on frustrated.
Does this sentiment sound familiar? Have you ever thought to yourself, "How many times do I have to explain how to do [said thing] to my team before they do it correctly?" Or, "How many different conversations do I need to have with my boss around the fact that we're under-resourced and that is why things are slipping through the cracks?" Or, "I've told them I want exposure to different parts the business, why do they keep overlooking me when things come up?"
I believe you can approach this 2 different ways, and I'll summarise them briefly below.
How you show up
On one hand, it's about executive presence and impact.
When you walk in the room, do people look up and take notice?
Now, I know some of you probably squirm at the thought of that, and likely do your best to slip into meetings quietly without anyone noticing. If that's you, it's no surprise at all that no one's listening. The next meeting you walk into, say hello to everyone in the room: look them in the eye and use their names. Engage with them from the start and in doing so, you've opened up an invitation to them to engage with you during the meeting.
When you talk, do people look at you?
Do their eyes glaze over? Are they bobbleheads*? Or, do they actively make eye contact with you, glance away thoughtfully as you provoke new ideas or offer unique perspectives on topics of value? If you don't know this, you're not paying attention! Engaging in a conversation means engaging in and responding to the non-verbal cues that the other party gives. The next time you're in a conversation, if you can see them starting to check out (and it's obvious when that happens), pivot your language, tone of voice or another lever in your toolbox so that you reengage them and they start listening again.
When you email them, do they reply?
Email's a funny one, because it's a bit of a passive means of communication, whereby some people do feel their communication responsibility is discharged by simply blasting out an email. "There," they think, "I'm done. Over to them now." We know that's ineffective and symptomatic of other issues which are a topic of another discussion. But in today's world, email is a primary form of communication. Which means that when we send them, we want to elicit a response. If we don't get that response, then something's gone awry. Whether it's the language you use, the tone of voice (which is nuanced because it's written), the length, the time of day, the recipients. The list goes on in terms of the variability of factors within a written email.
Do you talk with credibility, substance and demonstrate your expertise?
Do you know your stuff? My guess is yes, for sure. But likely any advantage or positive attribute, that attribute in excess becomes a disadvantage. Which is why presence, and leadership, is not only about 'do you know your stuff?'
How you listen
Deep listening expert, Oscar Trimboli, shares in his book Deep Listening, the 4 different types of listeners. I've summarised the key point for you - a you read, have a think about which type you are.
1. The Lost Listener
These listeners are those that are so caught up in themselves that they can't focus on the discussion. They might be nervous and focussed on what and when they will participate in the conversation.
2. The Interrupting Listener
These are the listeners that finish others' sentences, that go straight into 'solution mode' when issues are raised. They listen to solve, rather than learn.
3. The Shrewd Listener
These listeners are so busy trying to solve the problem, before the problem has been laid out. They take a snippit, extrapolate the problem and spend the conversation thinking about how to solve that, and forgetting to listen at all.
4. The Dramatic Listener
Ever had a conversation go down a rabbit hole? It's likely that you were talking with a dramatic listener. These listeners love to create drama and dissect the detail.Now, I'm sure that we know of people who fall into every category, but I wonder, which category do you slip into most often? Whilst it might be frustrating to you that they're not listening, are you listening to them? When you're not getting the results you want, listen to learn and then adjust how you're showing up.
*'Bobbleheads' are those people that endlessly nod at you while you talk, even when there is nothing particular to nod at. You know the ones.
As you wrap up the week, consider the questions I've posed above. Think about how you might adjust the way you listen and the way you show up next week, in order to end the week feeling strong and full of achievement.Show up with impact
Listen with intent
Amplify your Impact.
Endnote: As it turns out, my 'deaf' friends were doing this all to throw me off. They had organised a surprise birthday party for me that was better than anything I could have imagined or executed alone. Somehow they even managed to get my mum over from Tonga and cover each group of friends, from childhood to adulthood. It was pretty special.
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