Byron's Babbles

The Gift of Listening Without Fixing

IMG_1941The Gift of Listening Without Fixing

An excerpt from The Courage Way

By Shelly L. Francis

A senior management leader we’ll call Bob had tension with another person on staff, which made him feel as though his value to the organization was being questioned. He went to the CEO, Mike, for advice—and to vent a bit, too. He paced around the corner office, unsettled. Rather than give Bob instructions about what to do next, Mike consciously opted to ask open, honest questions. That meant asking questions Mike couldn’t possibly know the answer to but that would help Bob listen to his own inner wisdom.

In their conversation that day, Mike posed these questions in response to Bob’s unfolding story: What does that mean to you: feeling your value is being questioned? How does that feel to you? Do you recall a time when you had a similar feeling? How did that turn out? What are some things that occur to you as a next step?

The questions helped Bob connect the current situation with some other times in his current life and in his past. He was able to look at the workplace episode differently, and he gained a new perspective on how to approach his colleague for further conversation.

Mike’s internal stance as a leader was the foundation of this curiosity-driven yet nonjudgmental conversation that led to Bob’s insights. What Bob couldn’t see was that Mike was also embodying a few other touchstones to create safe and trust- worthy space: allowing silence, turning to wonder, and no fixing, saving, advising, or correcting. This approach empowers others to make wise decisions based on their own genuine inner knowing, rather than just accepting a superior’s advice (or seeming to but without a sense of ownership). Mike said, “I’m fascinated every time in these interchanges how much more satisfying the result seems to be when I don’t jump in with the first advice that comes to mind. My conversation with Bob had so much more texture to it. My impression was that Bob appreciated the fact that I didn’t dive in and tell him what to do and that I was interested enough in the situation to help him talk through it.”

Mike knew that his approach was atypical. “Allowing silence is challenging, especially in the workplace. People are taught to fill the silence. If you engage in conversation with open, honest questions and you give people time to ponder, that means you have to be patient with the silence.”

Mike sees how this form of conversation supports a workplace culture of compassion and empathy. “It’s harder to stop and think of asking an open, honest question. But it is a form of caring for someone, and it comes across that way—as caring.” It also communicates a charged expectation that Bob will address the situation responsibly and will be accountable for maintaining professional relationships with colleagues. This is paradox in action, to hold the tension between caring and accountability.

Mike told me that learning to ask open, honest questions is both a challenge and benefit of Courage Way practice because it’s made him a much better listener. “I’ve realized there is no greater gift you can give someone than deeply listening to them.” Open, honest questions are a form of humility in leadership, too. It’s easier but can be a form of arrogance to ask questions that try to manipulate people into the answer you want them to find.

An open question leads us to what Einstein referred to as a “holy curiosity.”  ~ Dawna Markova

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courage_way_3dAbout Shelly L. Francis

Shelly L. Francis has been the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since mid-2012. Before coming to the Center, Shelly directed trade marketing and publicity for multi-media publisher Sounds True, Inc. Her career has spanned international program management, web design, corporate communications, trade journals, and software manuals.

The common thread throughout her career has been bringing to light best-kept secrets — technology, services, resources, ideas — while bringing people together to facilitate collective impact and good work. Her latest book The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity identifies key ingredients needed to cultivate courage in personal and professional aspects of life.

The Courage Way

The Courage Way: Leading and Living with IntegrityThe Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity by Shelly L Francis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My Review: Being a leader takes tremendous courage and involves taking risks every day. That courage, if we are honest, is very hard to muster up at times. We all have core values we believe in and when the proverbial bullets begin to fly and hit our Kevlar, we find out just what we are made of. More importantly, those around us and that we serve find out what we are made of, too! In The Courage Way, we learn about five very important ingredients to being a courageous leader: understanding our true self, trust, being a part of trusting community, learning to embrace the paradox of leading and learning, and learning to reflect as a part of learning to lead more effectively and courageously. This book is a must read for anyone wanting to lead courageously at any level of community, even on the world stage.
~Dr. Byron Ernest

View all my reviews

Five Key Ingredients of the Courage Way

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Five Key Ingredients of the Courage Way

An excerpt from The Courage Way

By Shelly L. Francis

Leadership is a daily, ongoing practice, a journey toward becoming your best self and inviting others to do the same. And at the heart of this daily practice is courage.

Through more than 120 interviews, I found a pattern of five key ingredients in how leaders have learned to cultivate courage. Three powerful main concepts are true self, trust, and community; the two key practices are paradox and reflection. Here’s a brief overview.

True Self

Our basic premise is that inside of each person is the essential self who continues to grow and yet somehow, deep down, remains constant. Every person has access to this inner source of truth, named in various wisdom traditions as identity and integrity, inner teacher, heart, inner compass, spirit, or soul. Your true self is a source of guidance and strength that helps you find your way through life’s complexities and challenges. When you begin to listen to and trust the truest part of yourself, your choices and relationships flow from that trust, begetting more trust.

Trust

Courage takes trust—in ourselves and in each other. Trustworthy relationships create the conditions for people to flourish and for positive change to arise. Relational trust is based on our perceptions of personal regard, professional respect, competence, and integrity in other people. Coming to understand the attitudes, assumptions, and biases that lead to such perceptions of trust entails honest inner work. Our collection of principles and practices is a time-tested approach for facilitating inner work and cultivating relational trust.

Community

Becoming more self-aware and trustworthy requires both individual introspection and a supportive community. We offer a specialized meaning of community as “solitudes alone together” as well as a “community of inquiry.” Our practices offer models for how to reflect and interact with each other so that new clarity and courage can emerge.

Being receptive to the very idea of needing other people in community takes courage and yet, in turn, creates resilience. Leaders must know how to invite people into and hold them accountable for cocreating trustworthy space so that they can support each other in service of their work together. Achieving effective collaboration requires genuine trustworthy community.

Paradox

We can learn to practice paradox by recognizing that the polarities that come with being human (life and death, love and loss) are “both-ands” rather than “either-ors.” We can learn to let those tensions hold us in ways that stretch our hearts and minds open to new insights and possibilities. With paradox we honor both the voice of the individual and our collective intelligence. We trust both our intellects and the knowledge that comes through our bodies, intuitions, and emotions. Paradox values both speaking and listening. An appreciation of paradox enriches our lives, helping us hold greater complexity. Integrating our inner lives with our work in the world comes from daily practice in holding paradox.

Reflection

Refection cultivates more ways of knowing and learning that complement your mind and emotions, but draw from a deeper place: your intuition, imagination, and innermost being. Reflection is a practice that can be enriched by the mirroring of trust- worthy companions.

When we reflect together, such as by exploring how universal stories of human experience intersect with the personal stories of our lives, it can create relational trust. Guided conversations focused on a poem, a teaching story, a piece of music, or a work of art—drawn from diverse cultures and wisdom traditions—invite us to reflect on the big questions of our lives, allowing each person to explore them in his or her own way. Reflection helps us find the inner ground on which we stand firm, and it helps us find common ground with others.

If we are willing to embrace the challengeof becoming whole, we cannot embrace it all alone—at least, not for long: we need trustworthy relationships to sustain us, tenacious communities of support, if we are to sustain the journey toward an undivided life. Taking an inner journey toward rejoining soul and role requires a rare but real form of community that I call a “circle of trust.” ~ Parker J. Palmer

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courage_way_3dAbout Shelly L. Francis

Shelly L. Francis has been the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since mid-2012. Before coming to the Center, Shelly directed trade marketing and publicity for multi-media publisher Sounds True, Inc. Her career has spanned international program management, web design, corporate communications, trade journals, and software manuals.

The common thread throughout her career has been bringing to light best-kept secrets — technology, services, resources, ideas — while bringing people together to facilitate collective impact and good work. Her latest book The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity identifies key ingredients needed to cultivate courage in personal and professional aspects of life.

Leadership Lessons From Super Bowl LII

IMG_1931How about this? Last night the underdog Philadelphia Eagles upset the defending champion New England Patriots, 41-33, to win their first Super Bowl ever. As is our family tradition, we went to our good friend’s home to watch and enjoy the Super Bowl. For this game I really did not have any dog in the fight, but found three things very interesting to reflect on during the game. First, it is such a credit to the Patriots to have been in the position of going for a record 6th Super Bowl title. Think about it, we say all the time it is tougher to stay at the top than to get there. So, kudos to the New England Patriots for that – staying at the top of the game. Secondly, the Philadelphia Eagles had to work from being the underdog. In fact they were the underdog in all post-season games. Not an easy thing to do. Finally, my third area for reflection, and maybe the most important story, is the bench-building work of the Philadelphia Eagles. In other words, to lose a franchise quarterback and have one ready to take over like, Nick Foles, is amazing.

Nick Foles is quite the story when you think about the fact that he was considering walking away from professional football as recently as this past off-season. Then he won the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award after leading the Eagles past the New England Patriots, 41-33, in Super Bowl LII. There is no doubt that Carson Wentz was in control of the quarterback room prior to his injury, but it is also clear that the backup quarterbacks Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld were paying attention and learning. Credit Carson Wentz with leading by example in the quarterback room so that when it became Foles’ responsibility to hold the clicker, run the video, dissect the plays and report his insights, Foles was ready.

Additionally, I saw it reported somewhere that John DeFilippo, the Eagles’ quarterback coach, asked Foles to study the offensive plays he liked and choose 25 he thought worked best for him. DeFilippo wanted Foles’ input on plays and the concepts, too. Think about this leadership move by DeFilippo to create an effective package of run-pass option plays that suited Foles’ strengths. Since getting the starting nod in the game at Los Angeles, the Eagles offense has continually morphed into one for Foles rather than for Wentz. I would argue you cannot do this having some intentionality about bench building as an organization. In fact, we see other NFL teams that have done this well; the Dallas Cowboys come to mind. We have also teams not do this well, our Indianapolis Colts this past season when losing Andrew Luck. I am amazed how some teams are able to lose a paramount player and just keep going without missing a beat and others really struggle.

Could it be that it starts in the team room with how the bench is being modeled to, how the bench is being interacted with, and ultimately how the game plan was tweaked, adjusted, and iterated to meet the strengths of the backup? I would argue that it does. Certainly some lessons to be learned here from some reflection on the Super Bowl. What have you been reflecting on since Super Bowl LII?

“No, That’s Not The Problem” ~ Peter Drucker

IMG_1921Gem #5 entitled, “A Problem Well Defined Is A Problem Half Solved” (quote from Peter Drucker), in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart was about Peter Drucker’s insistence that problems be define by root causes, not symptoms. This really got me to thinking about how much we really do this. The point here is we spend a great deal of time dealing with symptoms of the problem as opposed to the actual problem. It is why I am such a believer in looking at outcomes. Sometimes our biggest problem is, we don’t know what the problems are.

img_1749Dr. Drucker also recommended against picking “Elephant Problems.” Elephant problems are ones that are just to big to address. In other words they would just cover too much to really get down to root cause problems. Therefore, elephant problems need to be broken down into smaller parts. I also like the discussion of not just using convenient data. Sometimes we just look at the data that either reinforces our own theories or hypothesis.

To really solve problems we need to first define the problem well and then get to the root cause. Only then can we begin to develop solutions that will be effective. What I have learned is that nearly everyone is usually clear on the task, but not clear on outcomes. Dr. Drucker was tough on those he worked with to continue to search for the real problem. He would continually say, “No, that’s not the problem.”