A nudge to listen and learn through chaos

When we are intensely busy, it is easy to fall into the trap of running only in “operational mode”; performing the next task almost without thinking. We do this because getting things done gives us the sense of control and achievement that we sorely need. It is, however, always important, and even more so during times of crisis, to take a moment to stop and listen.

During crisis times, new information is regularly introduced and the status quo changes rapidly. If we do not stop and listen every now and again, we will miss important information needed to lead and manage effectively during these times.  The age-old adage “two heads are better than one” remains true. We need to stop and listen to our team members: their ideas, thoughts, plans and concerns. When you take the time to listen to your team, your crisis management will become more efficient and effective.

Show your staff that you are truly listening by following these simple listening tips:

  • Focus fully on the person by stopping what you are busy with, turning your body towards them and making eye contact; body language reveals where your attention truly is.
  • Clarify what the person is saying by asking open-ended questions (e.g. who, why, what, where, when) rather than those that elicit yes/ no responses; this shows interest.
  • Give words of encouragement such as: “go on”, “what else”; this shows attention and willingness.
  • Summarise what the person said by reflecting back their words, this shows that you truly heard them.
  • Reflect back the emotions that you picked up from their message; this shows empathy.
  • React appropriately; make sure to show that you value their views even if you don’t agree with what they said.

Through listening we also learn. Though we may wish we had the time to properly reflect on what we are learning by breaking down the situation and our response to it in order to identify where we did things right and where and how we could have done better, realistically there is no time during a crisis for this level of learning. There will be time for reflective learning when the crisis has passed. The best way to learn right now is to listen to others, to pay attention to the outcomes of your own decisions and to find out how others are dealing with the uncertainty, the unplanned and unforeseen circumstances and the mistakes that were made.

Reflect for a moment on how well you currently listen and learn:

  • Whose opinions do you ask for and consider when you make decisions?
  • Do you truly listen to your staff? Does your body language support this?
  • How are you gathering feedback, thoughts and suggestions from your staff?  Do they know what you are doing with their input?
  • What mistakes have you made that you can learn from right now?
  • What mistakes have others made that you can learn from?
  • How are you recording what is happening now so that you can achieve proper reflective learning later?