Effective listening is a core foundation for treating each other with respect. Dame Evelyn Glennie is a deaf percussionist and highly accomplished musician. But her most powerful impact and legacy will likely be teaching us how to really listen. Her video on www.Ted.com is 32 minutes long but as described by TED viewers: “jaw dropping.”
Glennie teaches us to listen with our whole bodies and not to judge on the basis of shallow perception. Effectively listening to music and people requires us to FEEL the underlying vibrations. This involves patience, openness, and a genuine interest in receiving the melody and beat.
So, whether one enjoys Evelyn’s music or not, the act of listening with depth and real sensitivity is a powerful lesson for us all. We need to pause and ask ourselves what is the underlying vibration and message? This means being present and concentrating on the dialogue. An exchange of words is only part of the communication.
At work it helps to ask more questions in every interaction. Starting tomorrow, commit to genuinely asking for more understanding during every meeting or phone call. The more we can model that behavior the better listeners we become.
Effective listening is a lifetime of practice and we have the newest member of the Character Hall of Fame to teach us: Evelyn Glennie.
It was interesting that Elena Kagan, during the recent Senate Judiciary Hearings for appointment to the Supreme Court, toned down any hint of superior intellectualism (although she has a bit of a reputation for coming across that way). This Supreme Court nominee’s best strategy seemed to be reflected in her down to earth humor where she quipped about, “…likely needing to get her hair done more often…” if successful in getting elected to the country’s highest court.
Most of us don’t like “uppity” condescending behavior regardless of how smart people are. We normally know when people are “smarter” and/or have superior credentials (like Kagan). But, the concept of respect is a matter of equality.
My point is that the value of respect, one of the core tenants of the Character Triangle, involves people treating each other with consistent decency regardless of differences, intellectual or otherwise. Let’s face it; some people just are smarter than others. That’s a fact. However we all expect to be treated at an interpersonal level with dignity regardless of I.Q. (You may recall how well the Chairman of BP was received when he referred to many of us Americans as the “little people.”) When I hire someone, I want to go and have dinner with them. How do they treat the wait staff? How do they treat the receptionist? How do they carry on a dinner conversation? Describing themselves in the 3rd person is a bit of a concern too. Any hint of superiority or arrogance, regardless of how great the resume is, and I pass.
Smart people who can get great results are sought after. Choose the same kind of people who get there by stepping on top of others? No thanks! And by the way it works both ways. Super smart people with all the intellectual credentials shouldn’t have to dumb it down. When it involves how we treat each other, it’s not about smarts …it’s about respect. We are all “Ivy League” when it comes to working together.
Dr. Aaron Lazare, author of the book On Apology underscores the importance of genuinely apologizing as an important human act, allowing for those that are wrong to repent and for those that have been wronged to forgive. Management and leadership guru Tom Peters talks about sincerely saying “sorry” as one of top leaders’ most important attributes. But do we really know and understand this act of contrition or are some of us inclined to throw out the “S” word with a hope that we can make the issue go away. The data says that platitudes and “non–apology apologies” are worse than no apology at all. For example, one poll shows that only 54% of respondents felt that Tiger Woods apology was sincere.
Lisa Belkin wrote a great NYT Magazine article entitled Why Is It So Hard to Apologize Well. She refers to research by Jennifer Robbennolt, a professor of law and psychology at the University of Illinois.
“Dr. Robbennolt presented test subjects with a hypothetical situation — one in which a cyclist injures a pedestrian. She then attributed one of three statements to the cyclist and asked the subjects whether the injured party should accept a proffered settlement. When a full apology was offered (“I am so sorry that you were hurt. The accident was all my fault, I was going too fast and not watching where I was going”), 73 percent of the respondents said the pedestrian should be willing to accept the settlement. When no apology was offered, 52 percent said the pedestrian should settle. And when only a partial apology was offered (“I am so sorry that you were hurt, and I really hope that you feel better soon”), 35 percent opted for a settlement.”
Do you think Tony Hayward, the soon to be ex-CEO of BP was sincere in his apology?
So here are the essential self-accountable guidelines for apologizing at work (or anywhere):
1. Be honest enough to recognize when we screwed up and admit it.
2. Sincerely express our regret regarding our behavior and consequences.
3. Take full responsibility for our behavior/actions (even when we think there are extenuating circumstances).
4. State the learning and plan to act differently; outline how to prevent it from occurring again.
5. Ask for forgiveness.
I like the way Belkin concludes her article: when an apology fails, two things are lost — the victims are not asked for forgiveness, nor are they given a chance to grant it. Being asked to forgive restores dignity to the injured. Granting forgiveness is a step toward moving on. A botched apology not only taints the act of apology but the ability to accept an apology as well. And that is unforgivable.
Let’s be self accountable …apologize when you screw up …do it the right way and go forward.
There is an old Arabic saying that states, “Even the monkey, in his mother’s eyes, is an antelope.” One message underlying this adage, is that we value what we create. Professor Dan Ariely and his colleagues validate the essence of this through interesting experiments as noted in Ariely’s new book The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home. Creators, people who make something that’s meaningful to them, highly value their finished product (sometimes they tend over value their creations).
Being self accountable includes finding a way to create and complete work or projects. Effective leaders give room for people to add ingredients and “bake a cake” because they know people feel that pride of contribution and ownership. Ariely refers to this as the IKEA effect, that we are likely to value that furniture a little more if we have to put a little of our elbow grease into it. (After cursing while putting together some of this do-it-yourself furniture, I’m not sure I fully concur.)
At some level the notion of valuing our own creations more is intuitive. But for people concerned that self accountability may be too accommodating, it maybe a helpful reminder that we personally win by jumping in to create. To those in leadership roles – let’s make sure we’re leaving enough room for others to create to completion.