Get Positive!

In Hamlet’s Blackberry, William Powers writes, “In order for a ritual to succeed, people have to believe in it…but belief can’t be imposed by the world at large or higher-ups in management.  It has to come from within. To change a given habit, people must believe that by changing they’ll gain more than they would by sticking to their old ways.”  He goes on to write about Benjamin Franklin’s ‘Virtues’ which were Franklin’s attempt to develop a sort of rigor around improving his life behaviors (which weren’t always terribly salutatory). And then Powers notes something exceptionally important:  “The virtues on [Franklin’s] list are positive goals…In effect, when he looked the list over, he would think: ‘Yes, I want to do all these things; they serve my interests.'”

In my teaching and writing about Discovery Stopping, I emphasize the importance of being fully present to those with whom we live and work.  In Hamlet’s Blackberry, which I recommend to those interested in a thoughtful treatise on the many sources of and possible solutions for interruptions in our lives, Powers isn’t unrealistic about the important role that technology plays in our lives.  What I enjoyed about the book is that he puts technology-based interruptions into a context of history going back all the way to Socrates, Plato and Seneca!  However, he takes a long time to get close to offering thoughts that helped me consider possible solutions and this section on Franklin inspired many notes about applying my Stop/Notice/All-In/Play (S.N.A.P.) principles to daily life.  In short, I was reminded to keep it positive!  Make behavior changes that not only positively impact others but also ME!
When I am “all in” or fully present with my wife, children and colleagues, they feel valued and I am more likely to enjoy the experience with them.  Think about being all-in with (fill in the blank).  You’re not only hearing the words they speak but also seeing the twinkle (or vacancy) in their eyes and most importantly, ‘hearing’ the message in the space between the spoken words.  When I get it right, I walk away from an all-in experience like that feeling really good!  I am better prepared to take action, plan, think and improve.  Having been fully present in the moment has given me an emotional and practical boost!
So, don’t beat yourself up or let others do so when you realize that you’ve spent more time tapping on your device’s screen than listening or being there for someone else.  Rather, turn your intentions into goals that will change your behaviors into ones that will be constructive and positive for others and for YOU!  I have ideas for incorporating this concept into practical steps and will share them in future posts.

None Other Than…

…the venerable Harvard Business Review has lent credibility to my thesis of ‘stopping’. Here’s an excerpt from their blog post on Listening:

Slow Down. There is a reason that, over the years, you have lost your ability to listen. It feels too passive, like the opposite of action. It’s much faster to move to a decision based on the information you already have. But in doing so, you miss important considerations and sacrifice the opportunity to connect. Understand that as you begin to change your listening style to a more empathetic one, you may often feel inefficient. It takes time to truly hear someone and to replay the essence of their thoughts back them so that both parties are clear on what was said. The payback is dramatic, but it comes over the long run.

Here’s how the article concludes:

Truly empathetic listening requires courage—the willingness to let go of the old habits and embrace new ones that may, at first, feel time-consuming and inefficient. But once acquired, these listening habits are the very skills that turn would-be leaders into true ones.


The article references the fact that one of GE’s four key leadership traits is that of being a “humble listener!” I love that!

The link to the entire HBR blog article written by Ram Charan is under my “Blogroll” on the right-hand side of this page ===>

Listening for the Silence

I spend a fair amount of time thinking about listening these days. With all the sounds competing for my attention, listening is more difficult than ever today.  You know what these sounds are—constant “breaking” news on cable, Facebook, Tweet and ‘new’ news alerts and a cacophony of just plain noise!

In the midst of this maelstrom of audio interruption are the voices that are important—those of our children, spouses, colleagues and friends’ who merely want us to hear their hearts.     Stopping to really listen is vital not only to them but also to our own sense of wellbeing and peace.  I speak to leaders about being fully present for those with whom they work.  It resonates for them but, like me, they find it hard to prioritize this essential practice.  My friends and former employers, the Sisters of Mercy explained to me that ‘presence’ was, for them, a charism—literally, GRACE.

I remember this lesson from years ago in all that I do and on good days practice it reasonably well.  When I sit with someone in my office or visit with them in the hall, I work hard to tune out distractions like the ringing phone(s), the clock and e-mail in order to really be with—be present for—this most important person at this moment.

I am reading Anam Cara (“Soul friend”) by the late poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue right now and the following words about listening surprised and inspired me:

“With the sense of hearing, we listen to creation…Sometimes we listen to things, but we never hear them.  True listening brings us in touch even with that which is unsaid and unsayable.  Sometimes the most important thresholds of mystery are places of silence.”

That’s setting the bar even higher, isn’t it?  To listen not only to the spoken but to the unspoken:  The joy, hope, fear, or anticipation that is so often contained in the ‘between the lines’ stuff.  This week, as a husband, Dad, leader and friend, I am going to be intentional about listening for the silence.