Two ears one mouth

Posted by Mark Ward on Sunday, March 3, 2019

We have been given two ears and but a single mouth in order that we may hear more and talk less. – Zeno of Citium

My interpretation of this particular quote is a personal focus for the next week or two. Ever had that realisation you are doing more talking than listening? Or that you aren’t quite as open to other ideas as you think? Particularly when deadlines are tight, the pressure is on and your the one accountable for getting a solution across the line.

In a recent week-long Design Thinking workshop it became increasingly apparent that listening has a greater impact on getting to the right solution than speaking. Sure you need the right prompts and a willingness to share, but listening to how a group of people talk around a problem and prompting or promoting exploration of ideas seems a more essential skill towards creating a better solution – it’s a great deal more rewarding too.

Often when transitioning to Leadership or Management roles there is a lot of pressure to know the answer to everything. This leads to a disempowered team, particularly under pressure or when faced with a crisis. I’ve summed this up (no claim on originality here) that whilst you may be accountable for getting something done, the whole team/group is responsible for getting it done. The individual, the manager or leader isn’t responsible for finding the solution – that’s why the team is (hopefully) built with a range of knowledge and skills.

Open listening

Of course, listening is one part of the equation. Hearing is another. The ability to be open-minded to what is being heard. Again over a week of working and listening within a group, being open-minded to ideas that initially seem contrary to your own ideas, often after listening and questioning are often more aligned than you think.

My take is that an underlying awareness is needed to be aware of our own biases and to challenge ourselves to really listen.

So my personal challenge is to create my personal awareness to make sure I’m really listening.