Taking Responsibility for My Listening


Bad presentation–or resistant audience?

Executives often find themselves assigning blame. Many believe that ranking and sorting their colleagues is a key management skill–and I agree. A much rarer and more powerful skill is the ability to see our own contribution to the unwelcome behavior we see around us. Why is self-awareness more powerful than judging others? Because altering my own behavior is the best access I have to altering the future.

I know this. I teach this. I also forget to practice it.

In November of 2007, for example, I was in San Diego attending a weekend training for coaches. A breakout session was led by the author of one of the best-known books on coaching. It is a good book and I was very eager to attend. His ninety minute workshop was scheduled six times over two days–I was in a morning session on day two.

The author immediately struck me as irritated, aggressive, and arrogant. (Here I am, always ranking and sorting.) His opening seemed vague and rambling and his responses to questions were not pertinent. (Here I go, proceeding to collect evidence for my case.) People were shaking their heads and looking at each other. Coaches are a fairly supportive audience but in the first fifteen minutes, five of the thirty people walked out, one while the author was responding (elliptically) to his question! (Perfect. I have other people agreeing with me, a seductive substitute for truth.) I decided to (more…)