My Epic Failure to Listen…

 Profile image of Corine Hines From Spring Leadership

Corine Hines

Back in 2010, when I was just starting my coaching journey, I began seeing how powerful the process was for individuals. I’ve worked with all types of leaders and managers, from underrated heads of finance and recently recruited high potentials, to directors that were heading for burn out.  Watching them grow, develop better habits and improve their relationships, was incredible. But I was itching to have more impact on the wider business.

Personal transformations are amazing – but I knew that high performing teams aren’t created because one person transforms themselves.

Over the years we’ve developed an approach that helps individuals and teams make huge leaps forward – transformations that set them up for future success, which make a significant difference to them personally and to the bottom line.

Our techniques change businesses for the better. And it’s an absolute privilege to be involved.

It all started with a walk in the woods with a friend....

If you know anything about Steve and I, you’ll know we have tattoos on our arms reading “it’s not the knowing that’s difficult, it’s the doing” (we don’t by the way but you get the idea).

On Saturday I proved how true this is and totally failed to put a technique into practice from a book that’s been my bedside reading for months.

During a walk with my friend we started a very 2020 conversation about the world and our individual thoughts about the pandemic. It reminded me a lot of the very 2016 conversations that were had about the Brexit referendum.

I didn’t agree with her take on the situation. And it was a ‘disagree quite strongly’ moment.

Sigh, I thought. She’s a friend and I’m in argument territory (and we’re in the middle of the woods and I’m not sure how to get out…).

I didn’t want to sit on the fence and be vague, so I felt my only other option was to start a sentence with: “I completely disagree…and here’s why”

The result was that we both became more entrenched in our views and it got a little heated (did I mention I didn’t know how to get out the woods without her?)

However, it ended OK (ish) – we’re friends after all – we searched for common ground in our arguments and when there wasn’t any we agreed to disagree. But the conversation didn’t bring anything positive to either of us.

It reminded me how disagreements and the fear of speaking up can lead to the creation of some of the toxic environments the teams I work with have to cope with.

Later, when I reflected on it with Steve (I know, we’re coaches after all) he reminded me of the book I’d been enjoying so much Rapport: The Four Ways to Read People  (and reading bits out to him a lot..)

It’s all about how to listen in a way that truly seeks to understand. And I considered how I could have responded differently to my friend if I’d listened better and not been in such a rush to share my view. What would have happened if I’d said things like:

  • Tell me more
  • And what’s making you feel that way?
  • It sounds like you have anxiety about x and also think y
  • And that you’ve had enough of …
  • It sounds like x is really important to you….

It may have led to her explaining the worries and fears that underpinned her opinion. And then we might have explored my opinions with the same absence of judgement. Shared and understood our mutual concerns and worries and been able to reach more common ground than we did.

Better than that maybe we’d both have fresh perspectives, and our own views would have widened?

I highly recommend the book, but even if you don’t read it, maybe you could use just these 5  prompts when faced with situations where there is fear of speaking up because of disagreements. By asking the right questions instead of stating your position, common ground can much more easily be found.

And I think we could all do with finding some common ground these days can’t we.