Month: November 2023

Do you really listen?

Do you really listen?

While it does not surprise me, it saddens me that so many of the my clients and so many of my workshops include some discussion around listening. Overall, I would say that most of us are terrible listeners. When I led national sales teams, it was apparent that my sellers were lousy at listening and often missed the opportunity to connect with their clients. They thought that they knew better. The sellers would smile politely and nod, but then they would jump into their sales pitch, often ignoring what the client just said.

Listening is a skill that can be learned. I feel that if we were all better listeners, the world would be in a better place. But what makes a good listener? When coaching clients, I lean into the Co-Active Coaching framework on Listening Levels, describing them this way:

  • Listening Level 1: when you are listening to someone else, but your mind is preoccupied with other thoughts, such as wondering when the speaker will stop talking or thinking about sending a message to a colleague.
  • Listening Level 2: when you quiet your mind and give your full attention to the other person. You’re consciously listening to every word, processing it, and responding accordingly. You are fully receptive to what they are saying.
  • Listening Level 3: when you are fully connected with the other person, and every aspect of your being is in sync with theirs. Listening “as though you and the client are the center of the universe.” This is an intense and powerful level of listening.

As an Executive Coach, I spend most of my life listening to clients at Level 2 or 3 and it can be transformative. Truly listening to another person is a gift. Give it a try!

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m
going to learn, I must do it by listening.”
— Larry King
Worth The Share

From my work in change management, I know that changing the culture of a company is quite difficult, but when I read this article by Gallup, I was pretty surprised. The article, “What Leaders are Asking” focuses on the questions that leaders should be asking and what those questions really mean.

Consider these stats from Gallup, the comments are mine:

  • Globally, one in four employees strongly agree their opinions count at work (Is anyone listening?)
  • About two in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that the leaders of their organization has clear direction for the organization (Yikes!)
  • Fewer than two in 10 American workers indicate their company is agile. (What year are we living in?)
  • Fewer than one in four U.S. employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization’s values to their work every day. (Where is the gap?)
  • On average, a third of employees strongly agree that their associates are committed to doing quality work. (Where is the standard of excellence?)

Read the full article to uncover some ideas and strategies to make a positive impact on your company’s culture.

And Finally...

Speaking of the Gallup Organization, I encourage you to take the CliftonStrengths34 assessment if you haven’t already. And if you took it a few years ago, take it out of your file cabinet or find it on your computer and dust it off.

What I love about CliftonStrengths is that it challenges us to focus on our strengths, to understand them, to benefit from appreciating our own uniqueness and to learn how to live our best life. My top five strengths are: Connectedness, Positivity, Activator, Relator, and Responsibility. For anyone who knows me well, this comes as no surprise. That said, these strengths remind me daily of the benefits and pitfalls that are tied to them, and understanding that hopefully makes me a better person and a better executive coach.

If you would like to learn more, reach out anytime.
Have a great week,
Mary Jo
To learn more about my 1:1 executive, communication or business growth coaching, custom virtual workshops, the Career Transition program or just to connect, you can reach me at [email protected]

How good of a storyteller are you?

How good of a storyteller are you?

Stories are powerful. We all know that, and can easily recall a favorite movie or video, a song or book. So how come, in business, we rarely use storytelling techniques? We regularly talk in business speak, using a dry vocabulary and lots of facts to sound smart and impress our colleagues and clients.

Earlier this week, I worked with a group of senior leaders on communication skills and we talked about storytelling. It was affirming to see how quickly all the participants latched on to various techniques to share the power of stories. They grasped the concepts quickly and told me that they valued learning this new skill.

Go ahead. Try it. Add some drama or tension to grab the listener’s attention. Paint a picture to bring the situation to life so that the listener can imagine in their mind what you are describing. Use names for people, places and things. Sprinkle in some emotion to tug at the listener’s heart strings and help them connect deeper to you and the characters in your story, maybe even helping them to identify with those characters. Add luscious details to help them fully immerse themselves in your story – color (fuchsia), texture (like sandpaper to the touch), sounds (the lapping of the ocean), or a myriad of
hundreds emotions such as joy, panicked or epiphany.

“Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s
— Dr. Howard Gardner, Professor Harvard University
Worth The Share

When you tell someone a story, you can light up six or seven parts of their brain, but when you tell them a fact, you light up one or two parts of their brain. In Your Brain On Stories from Psychology Today, you will learn about why this occurs.

When you read something that is fact based, two parts of your brain light up – Wernicke’s area (where words are processed) and your visual cortex. If you hear something, Wernicke’s area would light up as well as your auditory cortex.

But, if you are told a compelling story – many areas of your brain would light up, the three mentioned above (Wernicke’s area, auditory and visual cortex) AND maybe your motor cortex, olfactory sensory area and the empathy areas of the brain. The author, Susan Weinschenk Ph.D., summed it up this way. “You are literally using more of your brain when you are listening to a story. And because you are having a richer brain event, you enjoy the experience more, you understand the information more deeply, and retain it longer.”

Plus, when you add tension to a story, it will sustain the attention of the listener, ultimately releasing Oxytocin which enhances social bonding.

And the bottom line is that stories make a big impact on RETENTION! People connect with stories and remember them. Read Your Brain on Stories to learn more details.

And Finally...

What is your favorite story? For fun, I thought I would check out the top stories (not movies) of all time, and what I learned is that these are some of the greatest works of literature ever written, according to Britannica:

Anna Karenia, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, 100 Years of Solitude, A Passage to India, Invisible Man, Don Quixote, Beloved, Mrs. Dalloway, Things Fall Apart, Jane Eyre, and The Color Purple.

How many have you read? Can you remember the story?

Have a great week, tell a story or two and have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
Mary Jo

To learn more about my 1:1 executive, communication or business growth coaching, custom virtual workshops, the Career Transition program or just to connect, you can reach me at [email protected]