I Get Scared When…

When do you get scared in conversations or meetings? You might call it “challenged,” “anxious,” or “threatened.” However, underneath our adult bravado, it remains what we called it as children: “scared.” Here’s how a few of the 50 consultants at a talk I gave last week at the Silicon Valley Organization Development Network completed this sentence: “I get scared when…” — “I think someone is angry with me and his or her voice escalates. I’m … Read more…

Focus on Listening with Responsive Behavior

Since August, I have been sharing key practices for joining with others to productively address complex problems we face in our lives.  Just over a year ago, I wrote about listening and its value in problem solving.  Listening is such an important skill to bring to our work with others that last week and over the next few weeks I am giving attention to four characteristics of good listening. In addition to quieting oneself to … Read more…

Focus on Listening by Choosing Appropriate Behaviors

Since August, I have been sharing key practices for joining with others to tackle the complex problems we face in our lives at work and in our communities.  A year ago, I spent time exploring specific skills that support those practices.  One of those skills is listening.  Listening is such an important skill to bring to our work with others that over the next four weeks I want to give attention again to four characteristics … Read more…

The Siren Call of Certainty

The human brain craves certainty. It likes to feel sure. When we feel uncertain about the future the more primitive parts of the brain go on alert and shift into self-protection. In this state, we search for and grasp anything that will make us feel safer and more certain. Unfortunately, our self-protective instincts are being evoked by siren songs from a number of presidential candidates. I get frustrated when I listen to them threaten us … Read more…

Hanging Out in the Unknown

Every year at the winter solstice, the rising sun illuminates the interior of Newgrange, the prehistoric monument in County Meath on the northeast coast of Ireland. I can just about hear the sighs of relief of those who gathered on this windy, cold hill nearly 5,000 years ago as they saw the sign that longer, lighter days were returning. So great is the human need to know, to be certain, that prehistoric people in the … Read more…

“Go-To” Skill #1: Listening

Listening is the most underutilized and essential element there is for meaningful conversation. It is good for whatever ails any meeting. Although it does not cure a common cold, it does prevent misunderstandings, strengthen relationships, and help people clarify their thinking. So, why don’t we listen more deeply and more often? Among many possible reasons, three stand out: tit for tat behavior, fear, and lack of skill. “Tit for tat” or “you aren’t listening to … Read more…

Awareness Enables us to Make Conscious Choices

After a day and a half of intense, “learning-full” conversations, 28 people struggle to determine what they want to do after the meeting to continue to carry out their mission. They are running late and several people have to leave to catch plane flights. As the facilitator, I feel anxious they will not be able to agree and the meeting will end in frustration. I make a process suggestion that they misunderstand and which seems … Read more…