Posts Tagged ‘Listen’

Is It Better To Be A Hands-On or Hands-Off Manager

November 20, 2015

A great example of this is the section on task-relevant maturity. This part of the book became very personal for me as it taught me how to formulate the most useful management question that I use in interviews: “Is it better to be a hands-on or hands-off manager?”

Venture Capitalist and author Ben Horowitz wrote the introduction to the latest edition of Andy Grove’s classic book, “High Output Management.” He published it also on Medium. He included this classic question.

What was your initial reaction when you first read that quote? I bet that answer is an indicator to how you manage.

My first reaction with very little thought was, “Yes.”

Grove said, “It depends.”

As a leader, you must observe your co-workers. You must  provide the focus of the organization and an understanding of each person’s role. Then you observe how they are doing.

Some people just take off and start doing. They don’t need someone to tell them what to do next. Or how to do it. They are creative and motivated. Just pull gently on the reins to keep them on the path and get out of the way.

Some people, often new one to the organization or inexperienced ones, need more guidance. Perhaps a few more 1-on-1 meetings to ask questions and provide some guidance.

Knowing your people, their strengths, their motivations, their weaknesses, and then acting appropriately will reward you with a high output team that enjoys the journey.

Leaders Working With A Board

November 13, 2015

He had started a ministry to addicted people. It was a vision. He could help people in dire straights turn their lives around and become clean and productive.

The ministry grew and became an organization. He found it necessary to develop new skills. Some influential people in the community had become members of the advisory board. He needed to learn how to manage them for continued effectiveness of the organization.

I worked with him for a while. Here are some ideas I passed along:

  • You have the vision, never stop passing it along
  • Invite individual board members for breakfast and lunch to share the vision and solicit ideas
  • Help the board find new members with specific expertise–fund raising, marketing, finance, contacts
  • Work especially with the board chairman to encourage team work and collaboration

There was a board I was on once where the administrator was a tyrant. It was “agree with me or leave” except that I was elected to the post and he couldn’t remove me. So, he resorted to intimidation. Didn’t work and he eventually lost the confidence of the entire board and was gone.

His replacement was collaborative both with the board and with the staff. Things worked much better.

Recently the local newspaper reported on a board meeting of a local public school. The superintendent pitched a personnel change. Several board members asked questions about the reason and the necessity. “I’ve done this a long time and I know what I’m doing,” came the retort.

Oops, not a collaborative move. The narcissistic ploy just doesn’t make it as a leader. There should have been an open, collaborative discussion before the meeting ever happened. The leader needs to solicit input receiving (and listening to) a variety of views.

When a leader is dysfunctional or when a board is dysfunctional, then the mission and well being of the entire organization suffers.

Big Mouth Little Ears

November 4, 2015

The dental hygienist was cleaning my teeth with some sort of high-pressure water hose. She told me, “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you have a big mouth, because you don’t.” 😉

You have to think of something while you’re at your annual visit to the dentist. Sitting in the chair that’s tilted far back. Your mouth open as wide as you can get it and stuck in that position for 30-40 minutes. It hurts my jaw.

The thought popped into my mind about what James says about the pain that a big mouth can cause in others. You open your mouth. Words come out. Sometimes without a filter between impulse and speech. Then you see the pain on the other person’s face. At least I hope you are not so self-absorbed that you don’t notice other people.

Once said, the hurt is there. Never to be entirely undone.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “When someone else talks, listen completely. Most people don’t listen.”

That reminds us that most of the time it is better to keep our mouth closed and listen to the other person. Yogi Berra once said that you can hear a lot just by listening. Yep.

My problem in this regard is that I can be content to not say anything at a gathering. No, really. However, if you ask me a question, I’ll answer it. If it’s something I’m passionate about, I’ll really answer it.

But, I’d rather be quiet. No regrets that way.

My lesson–when all is said and done, the less said the better.

Not For The Purpose of Quarreling Over Opinions

September 17, 2015

Yesterday I pondered what kind of church, indeed what kind of society, we’d have if we could incorporate Paul’s 29 definitions of love from Romans 12.

Then I glanced over a page and saw Romans 14: “Welcome those who are weak in the faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.”

We live in a society of people filled to overflowing with emotional opinions that are shallow and not thought out. Just check the majority of Facebook posts. Or check the comments to blogs over the past 10 years.

Andy Stanley recently taught a series called “Christian” where he voiced general society’s view of Christians as a quarrelsome lot. He nailed it.

I long ago gave up on the idea of having an intelligent conversation based on well-thought-out ideas among people willing to listen to reason. Actually, I have had a few business dinners where that sort of good conversation broke out. But it rarely happens among Christians.

What if? What if those of us who identify as Christ-followers, those seeking to live a with-God life, what if we chose not to quarrel with those weak in the faith over opinions? What if we asked questions out of the depths of love? And then listened to their stories with the depths of love? And what if we could quietly share just what great things happen personally when we live a life with God?

John Lennon sang, “You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.”

I’d love to see more than a few of us. How about you?

Listening: Leadership Trait and Narcissism Cure

August 28, 2015

Is there a narcissist in your life?

If you live in the West, especialy in America, the odds favor a yes answer. One hopes that the person is not your boss. I further hope the person is not you! (But if it is, you’re not aware of it.)

There are a few in my life. I asked a therapist (my daughter) about what the DSM says. She said there is no known cure. Either live with it or avoid them.

Jenny Dyer writing on Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog came up with some interesting thoughts. Not valid cures at this point, but interesting thoughts.

I have written several times about listening and how it’s a great leadership trait to develop. It may go deeper than that.

Dyer writes, “In the recent HBO hit series, “In Treatment,” Gabriel Byrnes discusses his role as a psychotherapist.”

He notes, “Listening, I think, is one of the most profound compliments that you can pay to another person. To truly listen and to feel that you’re heard is deeply fulfilling in a deep human way.” This awareness of listening is an act of empathy.

Hearing the story of another human, and deeply listening to that story, is an act of compassion, altruism, and love. It involves losing yourself and experiencing a “vicarious introspection” into the life of another human being.

To truly hear a story is an act of empathy. 

Neurological studies show that altruism is actually a biological response, hard-wired into the brain.

In fact, acts of generosity, empathy, or altruism light up a primitive part of the brain that is usually associated with pleasurable actions like eating good food or sex.

They might actually cure narcissism.

So if you’re starting to fear you’re a little too self-absorbed, stop to listen, think about others instead, and give generously with what you have.

Ironically, in combating narcissism through empathy, the individual who has long suffered from narcissism actually secures the greatest win—a pleasurable biological response—when focused on others.

Reflecting on that idea, it came to me that he may be on to something. I think I have witnessed that in a couple of lives. Maybe more. Something broke through their consciousness. They started to actually think about other people. Give money, time, gifts.

In none of the cases was it a total cure. But it was an improvement.

So if you are feeling a bit too self-absorbed. Or maybe someone you know is. Try breaking through the fog and just try listening to someone with no thought about what you might say. If a thought comes to mind about your experience to share with the other, say to yourself, “It’s really not that important. Let’s listen to the other person.”

You can learn a lot just by listening to someone else.

Discerning God’s Will

August 19, 2015

“You will win the election if it is God’s will,” the lady told a political candidate.

Subsequent conversations with others about God’s will centered on the question of how do you know and what do you mean.

Is it God’s will for whether the politician wins or not? Or, is the issue whether the politician is following God’s will–his calling–for his life? Maybe he sat in contemplation and God whispered that his talents would be best used as a politician. Although I have to say from personal observation (I’ve met him briefly, he’s my representative somewhere) that he probably had a better calling as a Navy SEAL than as a legislator. But, who am I to question God?

Psychologist Henry Cloud spoke the past two weekends at Willow Creek Community Church on that topic. God’s will for your life–not my legislator.

He talked about finding your passion. Getting your passion aligned with your talents. That will be a hint about following God’s will for your life.

But you need discernment. Is this a real passion or a momentary infatuation? Does it match my talents and skills with passion for service? Can you visualize a beneficial outcome?

He talked of two builders. Each made a pile of money developing tracts of land, building houses, and selling them.

One was tired and burned out. He found it boring to do the same old thing over again–even if he did earn millions of dollars.

The other was energized. “I just love what I’m doing. I fly over the undeveloped tract of land and visualize houses and parks and families grilling and kids playing. I just love this.”

One found his passion. His heart was in it, and his heart was in a right relationship. He made a lot of money, but his heart was on helping others.

This one, no doubt, had found God’s will for his life. And many benefited. The other merely found a job he was good at.

When Words Become Meaningless

June 25, 2015

Upon becoming a CEO, a former research scientist turned to obsessive reading of management books to help make the transition.

He found lots of memorable phrases (my favorite–“focus, focus, focus”) but very little actual help. The author of the focus phrase neglected one very important piece of the puzzle–just what should the manager focus on!

Some phrases were repeated so often and regularly misused that the words–for example quality and excellence–had lost meaning.

Sometimes I wonder if we do the same think as Christians (or Jews or Muslims, too). We repeat phrases that lose their original meaning and their impact. They become just words. Sometimes just words that we can use to self-justify (remember my recent post) our actions or lack of action.

I’ve witnessed people who have a favorite phrase (“praise the Lord” or “I love Jesus” or “I’m saved”) and then flagrantly commit adultery. Or even worse, pick up a weapon and injure or kill someone.

One of the original “God is dead” theologians whom I read probably 50 years ago was merely trying to explain that when the word “God” loses its power and impact on people–when it just becomes a word that is repeated–then it is as if to those people God is dead. Indeed, He is dead to them.

The word is there, but the spirit is missing. Or, as we used to say, the lights are on, but nobody’s home.

When we use words without power or spirit, we devalue the word, the thought, the spirit.

And remember, adverbs are not your friend. And adjectives should be acquaintances who seldom visit. And yes, when I wrote that last sentence I paused and scanned to count adverbs. I think one too many. What do you think?

God is a real spiritual being who desires a relationship. Jesus was a human being who, being the pioneer of our faith, died and then returned to life. Real beings, not just words.

Words have power, use them wisely.

People You Can Live Better Without

February 26, 2015

From Proverbs:

18:24 — Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.

22:24 — Make no friends with those given to anger.

I saw this blog describing people you can live without.

Other people can cheer you up, or they can drag you down. Did you ever consider how long it takes to recover from a chance meeting with a negative person? Even if you try to maintain a level personality, a few words can bring down your emotional well being and cause grief.

It is difficult to be productive with such an attitude. A negative co-worker is like an anchor weighing you down to the bottom of the sea. A negative friend does not help you succeed. A needy person can suck all the energy out of you.

Take a lesson from Lidiya K as well as from Proverbs. These are people you can live without. Try to sever relations as quickly as possible.

Here is her list. Can you add to it?

  1. Complainers.
  2. The ones that are with you only in good times.
  3. Those who don’t believe in you.
  4. Victims.
  5. People who gossip.

Look instead for people who build up other people. People who are servants. People who are wise.

Practice Active Listening

January 12, 2015

We are in a series of practices to start off your 2015 and deepen your spiritual and relational experiences.

Today, let’s consider listening.

“When you listen, listen completely. Most people don’t listen,” said Mark Twain.

“You can hear a lot just by listening,” Yogi Berra added.

When you are in a conversation, what are you doing?

Most people are thinking about what they are going to say when there is a pause. Or they are talking over the other person. Arguing, even.

When you are at a conference or in church listening to the message, what are you thinking? Dozing off?

We need to engage with the speaker. The practice is active listening. The first thing is where you’re looking. Focus your eyes on the speaker. What is the posture, eye contact (or lack), gesture? Communication is a “full-contact” sport.

In a personal conversation, focus on an eye. If there is much ambient noise, I alternate focus on eyes and mouth so that I can “see” the words coming, too. I’m listening to the person with all my senses.

Rather than trying to come up with a better story, try to think of questions to draw out more information and engagement.

In a large setting, take notes. You may never refer to the notes again. The very act of note taking, though, keeps you alert and focusing on the speaker.

For 2015, let’s develop our active listening skill.


Pause to Find Self-Awareness

December 19, 2014

Everywhere are conversations among people this week, “Are you ready for Christmas? I have so much to do. Not enough time to do it.”

We hurry from work to shopping to wrapping to parties to work. It’s all a big blur.

We don’t have time to “feel the Christmas spirit” because we don’t have time to notice.

Gene Appel, senior pastor of the Eastside Christian Church in Orange County, California, drew a lesson from one of Jesus’ stories to (and about) his local Pharisees in a message a few weeks ago.

It seems that a man had two sons. One tapped into the old man for a chunk of money and took off for the good life. One day after the money was gone, the friends were gone, the women were gone and he woke up in a pigpen, he “came to his senses.” He became what is one of the hardest things for us to do—to become self-aware.

When did he become self-aware? When he stopped. There was no more hurry. No more drinking, no more women, no more friends, no more hurrying from one party to the next. He stopped. And then he came to his senses.

Perhaps it is time we stop. Just pause and take a deep breath. Inhale until the lungs fill; then keep going until the stomach is “filled”; then keep going until the abdomen grows. Then slowly release the breath. Two or three of those should slow us down until we can become aware of our circumstances, our emotions, our environment.

Stop. Look around. Place your thoughts on Jesus. Rejoice in the celebration.