Speaking and Listening are Action

Welcome to the second of our six blog series; “Productivity: Making Results Happen!” Our goal is to offer you simple ideas that when observed through how we work each day, will provide you with new insights, new ways of seeing the world of work and new ways of acting as leaders. Ultimately, when applied to specific business challenges, you will have the possibility of achieving results not previously considered to be possible in any given circumstance in which you find yourself.

Our first simple idea was, “Actions Produce Results”. If you want a different result in any given area of work, you should consider taking different actions. Doing the same thing over again – even more, better or different versions – will not work.

Our second Simple idea is, “Speaking and Listening are Action”

Let’s start by considering what actions or doings at work look like. How are they constituted? For a tennis player or golfer, swinging a racket or a club are the actions that produce the smash or a hole in one. The action might change if you adjust your grip on the racket or the driver and similarly if you shift your stance or body position. Whatever changes are made, they are likely to affect the outcome or the result achieved.

Which leads us to the question; what is the action of leadership? We say that action for leaders is constituted in language. We ask you to consider that action for leadership is “conversation” i.e. Speaking and Listening. Think about it. As a leader, what do you do at work? You talk and listen either in meetings, conference calls, emails and one-on-ones or group/team sessions. This talking and listening includes you talking and listening to yourself.

If you stand in this idea, you have to ask the question, is all talking and listening action? We would say no. Most of what we say and even how we listen every day is either explanatory or descriptive. Something like “stream of consciousness” occurring between our ears and coming out of our mouths. It’s similar to the type of listening and speaking that happens when players step away from the court to assess the situation, take a time out, or talk to their coach. And while that kind of talking and listening is important, it doesn’t move the ball up the court. In other words, it doesn’t constitute action and therefore never produces results.

So how does a leader cause performance in themselves and others through speaking and listening? They do that by making a commitment through a request, promise, offer, or assertion. It also happens when a leader commands or demands, but as you will see in our next blog, the effect on the performer is quite different and the outcomes far less effective.

So what does making a request look like? One example is: I request that you develop a plan to have your prime contractor cut their costs by 15% without loss of quality or time, and that you get me that plan by March 20th.” The “listener” has 3 powerful committed responses: I accept, I decline or I give a counter-offer.

So in conclusion, leadership is expressed through action and the action of a leader is talking and listening. When you are at work, think about what you want to achieve, consider the kind of action that would make that possible and start to manage what you say and how you listen as your primary means for achievement. Start by listening seriously to yourself and others when speaking a commitment and by making clear concise and bold requests of others and give them permission to respond by accepting, declining and making a counter-offer. Once that contract is made you now have a commitment in place.

Next Time: The power of choice! In our third blog we will look at the notion of saying no and the powerful difference between ordering people versus giving them some degree of choice.

More to come.