Second Crack — The Leadership Podcast

Listening - The Superpower of Leaders with Raquel Ark

October 14, 2022 Gerrit Pelzer, Martin Aldergard, Raquel Ark Episode 14
Second Crack — The Leadership Podcast
Listening - The Superpower of Leaders with Raquel Ark
Show Notes Transcript

How can leaders can create more impact through listening? We interview Raquel Ark, founder of Listening Alchemy and host of the Listening Superpower Podcast.

7:40: Recent statistics show that a key skill that’s needed for leaders is listening. However, listening is normally nothing we learn in school. Research shows that there is a lot of power in listening. Listening is a prestige power It's the type of power where people want to follow you, where people are inspired by you. It's more of an inclusive to-come-with-me type of power.

8:27: When you listen as a leader, your autocratic dominant power goes down, you will lose that type of power. If you have a leadership style that's dominant and autocratic, you do have power. But it's the type of power where you are forcing people to do things, to follow you.

In contrast, if you listen, you create a prestige power where you inspire people and they want to follow you. So that's a difference that the empirical research is showing in terms of power.

10:58: There are a lot of different ways in which power can show up. Listening is an inclusive type of power. It can invite all of us to stand up and work better together, not just focused around one person (the leader).

13:30: Listening helps the speaker become clear, more creative,  come up with their own solutions,  be more motivated and engaged. And this is what the research is showing that when a speaker has a high quality listener, (listening with no judgment, with openness, care, really trying to understand their perspective) then that speaker will relax and  feel safe. And when they feel safe, instead of persuading people, they will start to express themselves.

28:49: Teaching active listening is often reduced to a “mechanical” skill: keep eye contact, paraphrase… This is useless if presence or the interest in the other person is not there.

31:37 Just by not interrupting people and being genuinely interested, you will have a huge impact and be perceived as a great listener. You’ll be perceived in a positive way and have impact on that person. And as others are speaking, they actually gain more insight about themselves and their own thoughts. So they change themselves. You're not changing them.

33:56 Paradox: your communication becomes more impactful when you speak less and listen more.

Reflection Questions for Leaders:

  • Think of a person who listened to you and it helped you have an aha-moment or solve a problem. Or you came up with an idea, you realised what was really important. Reflect back on that experience.
    What was it about that listening that helped you? Then you take that and put that into practice with others yourself.
  • What can I do to practice my listening? Listening to this podcast or reading about listening will not help you become a better listener just by knowing it. So, what can I do to experiment and play with it? 
  • If I tend to have a strong opinion, what if that moment I reset and become curious like my, six year old child that's asking why questions? What if I were to become curious and then change my presence in this moment? 
  • What are the conditions that I need to be a good listener?
  • How can I get honest, candid feedback on how well I'm listening ?

Connect with us on LinkedIn:

Raquel Ark
Martin Aldergård
Gerrit Pelzer

More info:
secondcrackleadership.com

Listening – The Superpower of Leaders with Raquel Ark

Second Crack – The Leadership Podcast

Episode 14 

This transcript is AI-generated and may contain errors and typos.

[00:00] Raquel: For the leader, it's not just about you listening, but it's about facilitating listening in the organization, which is much more than the one-on-ones, and the teamwork, it's also facilitating at scale, and so, how do you integrate listening into what you're already doing so that you can do it better? So it doesn't mean a whole new project, but it's more how do we integrate listening into the structures, into the decision making processes, into the meetings, and then let the magic happen.

[00:40] Gerrit: A warm welcome to Second Crack Leadership Podcast. If you are new to the show, this is where we explore everyday leadership dilemmas and paradoxes, and where we invite you as our listener to self. My name is Gerrit Pelzer and I'm joined as usual by my long-term friend and business partner, Martin Aldergård.

So, hi Martin, how are you today? 

[01:02] Martin: Hi, Gerrit. I'm fine. I had, uh, two, three weeks of a great summer holidays. I'm excited to getting back recording this episode. 

[01:10] Gerrit: Obviously communication is a very important leadership skill and a question we get asked all the time is now, how can I communicate with more impact?

And we are very lucky today to have a true communication expert on board Raquel Ark. So Raquel, Welcome. Thank you so much for being with us on the show today.

[01:32] Raquel: Well, I'm really, really happy and excited to be with you today too. 

[01:37] Gerrit: So let me introduce, I was about to say, let me introduce you briefly, but with your record, that's impossible.

So, uh, let me start with your very international background. You were born in Puerto Rico, you grew up in Ohio, United States, and you've been living for quite some time now in Germany. My home country. You have pretty much dedicated your whole professional life to communication. You studied organizational communication.

You have worked in corporate communications for many years. You have taught, and you, you are still teaching communications at universities in the US and in Germany. And since 2014, I believe you have been running your own business listening alchemy as a communication expert. You offer trainings, facilitation, and coaching with a focus on listening as a superpower.

You have been a TEDx speaker and very impressive for Martin and myself. You've been running your podcast for quite a while already. It's called. The listening Superpower podcast. Raquel, have I missed anything? ? 

[02:53] Raquel: I don't think so. That's probably enough . That's probably enough. 

[02:57] Gerrit: alright, so be before we go into the details of, uh, communication as a critical leadership skill, um, trust.

A quick reminder, if you enjoy the podcast, remember to subscribe so you don't miss out on the latest episode. And you can also help us grow the show by telling a friend about it and by leaving a positive comment or rating on the platform of your choice. And of course, do the same with Raquel's podcast.

We put, we make sure we put a link to her podcast in the session notes. So when I just reflect on how I just introduced, it's, it's all about communication and I'd be curious to hear your story. How, how did you get into this whole communications thing? 

[03:46] Raquel: Well, you know how life is, um, often things kind of happen and doors open and, um, when I was in, uh, high school looking it into colleges, um, I.

I was trying to think about what am I good at? And I never felt like I was really good at one thing. Um, I was kind of a jack of all trades with a lot of little bits and pieces of everything, but not really good at one thing. And, um, but one of the things I did love was people I love, um, you know, interacting with people and.

So when I was talking to some college, um, universities, I said, Well, what is it? What do you need to be a cruise director? Cuz I thought traveling, meeting people, experiencing things, they're like, Oh, you gotta study communications. And so that's where that communication piece, um, was the first time I ever thought.

Studying communication and interpersonal and organizational communication. And I went to Ohio University for interview bobcats out there. That's where I studied university and, and um, after that, the doors open with teaching and then moving to Germany. Um, even though I had taught for many years, when I moved to Germany, I had to start over.

I didn't know the language. I didn't speak German at the time. I started taking German classes. And so I needed something where I could also use my English and by chance, um, I applied . Actually, I applied to an internship in Germany because I was told that the only way to get a job in Germany is to start with an internship.

But I'm like, but I've been working for 10 years. I had my own business in the us. Are you sure about that? That's how it works in Germany. So I applied. And, um, within a day I had an interview, , and I remember my, the person who interviewed me is like, You're overqualified for this, you know, uh, are you sure you want this?

And I'm like, Sure, yeah. And I want a job actually. But anyway, she opened the door for me. We had a great experience and that was a beginning of my corporate communications journey here in, in Germany. 

[05:50] Martin: And how did that then lead you to, to focus on, On listening? Right? On listening. Because within the whole area of communication, you have really zoomed, didn't 

[06:00] Raquel: Yeah, well I never thought of myself.

Like even doing the interview right now, I'm nervous, you know, I never thought of myself as a really good. Communicator, Um, being able to express my ideas clearly or, um, but I always was able to connect with people and even when I was working in corporate communications and then seeing the impact of communications at large scale, um, and.

Somehow or other, I was able to get things done even though I didn't feel like I was good at communication compared to some of my peers or even my boss. And the more I reflected back on why was I able to teach, well, why was I able to move to a new country and adapt well? Why was I able to be successful and start over multiple times?

And in the end I realized it had to do with my listing and being able to connect to. So my communication skills as a communicator were more, my power came from the listing piece more than from expressing myself because I could build trust through that process. Hey, 

[07:01] Martin: this is really interesting because in, in my kind of stereotype of a leader like this big, powerful leader that can influence and get a lot of followers, let's say a big CEO in the company.

I would see them as big talkers and very powerful talkers. And I see it almost as a paradox. How can you lead and how can you influence by listening? This is to be such an interesting paradox and a, and an interesting balance. And why, Why would you say listening then is, is generating, So why is it so powerful?

[07:40] Raquel: Why is it so powerful? I, well, we're discovering that right now. Um, when you said, you know, often you're right. We're we're taught in schools how to speak. Even though if you look at even some of the recent statistics, what they're saying in terms of the skill that's needed by leaders is listening. But we don't learn that in school.

Except for to stand up, you know, focus, sit up. Right? Repeat what I said. But that's fake listening. Often that's not the real listening, right? And so we're not really taught that, but there's some research showing that there's a lot of power in listening and, but it's a, it's a prestige power. It's the type of power where people want to follow you.

It's the type of power where people are inspired by you. It's more of an inclusive to come with me type of power. Um, when you listen as a leader, Your autocratic dominant power goes down, you will lose that type of power. So you will, if I don't listen to you, then I have all the power, you know? So if you have a leadership style that's dominant and autocratic, you will have power.

Um, but it's, it's the type of power where you are forcing people to do things, to follow you. Where if you listen, You create a prestige part where you inspire people and they want to follow you. So that's a difference in terms of what the empirical research is showing in terms of power. 

[09:05] Martin: And I think we see a lot of changes from, from the past styles of leadership and also the how the world used a change in the past.

It's more predictable, perhaps. And now we are so much in this unpredictable, and perhaps as a leader, we don't have all the answers. 

[09:22] Raquel: Right. We don't, you know, one of the things I, I didn't realize, you know, I'm still learning about the power and we can talk about some of what the research is showing later, but I was just remembering right now an experience I had some years ago where I was, um, facilitating.

I was co facilitating a three day workshop with a couple of other people, and the other two people who were facilitating with me were more perceived in the beginning as. Mm, the leads or you know, the powerful people, let's say because they had been with this group and so they have really big, a lot of charisma and you know, I'm, my charisma's a little bit more subtle, I'm a more subtle type of person.

And what um, so going in there and as a facilitator even you have a lot of power. So talking about power and leading, cuz you're guiding the experience that people are going through. And I remember. Um, my, the feedback that I had afterwards was that, um, and that. I was able to inspire or facilitate and lead, but in a way that was inclusive where everybody felt like they were a part of it.

It wasn't, I wasn't the center of attention, but I was present. I was strong, but not the center of attention. Everybody could be a part of that. Um, everybody felt included and felt like they had power too. So it was inviting even the quiet people and the people who are, who usually hold back to step forward.

And so when you think about power , there's a lot of different ways that power can show. And what's the type of power? And I think listing is an inclusive type of power and it can invite, um, all of us to stand up and work better together, not just focused around one person. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . 

[11:09] Gerrit: Yeah. If, if I can expand on this, um, I compare this with coaching, right?

In every coaching training you learn that a key skill for coaches is also to listen to people, and it's, it's quite interesting when, when you listen to people, they are able to generate new thinking. I immediately, I feel reminded of a client of mine. I had worked with quite some years ago, and he would come to a coaching session and basically hold a monologue for the first 20 minutes, and after this 20 minutes, he would say, Well, it's, it's much clearer already.

And so when, when people have somebody who listens to them, they can expand their thinking, they can. How can I, how can I say? They, they can generate new ideas, make new connections in their brain. And so, um, if I turn this then around and make a link to, for instance, employee engagement and motivation when people feel listened to.

They will be more engaged. They feel valued as a person. And, uh, Martin and I, we, we had an episode earlier where we spoke about the collective intelligence of the people and, um, As Martin said earlier, leaders by themselves alone, they can't have all the answers they need to involve other people, right?

And so the moment people feel listened to, they, they will work better motivation, employee engagement, um, goes up. Or if I turned this around, I think we all have made an experience where we realized, Somebody else did not listen to me. , you know, it could be your spouse at home, or it could be your boss or anybody else.

And if you feel this other person is not with you, it's, it's completely destructive. Very disappointing. Right? 

[13:15] Raquel: So what you're saying is really important. For a couple of reasons, and maybe I can explain a little bit about what the research is showing, but yes, please. Um, what, so you have what you just said, had a couple of things.

You talked about, um, the ability of the listener to help the speaker become clear, to become more creative, to come up with their own solutions, to be more motivated and engaged. And this is what the research is showing that when. A, um, speaker has a high quality listener, someone who's really listening to them with no judgment, with openness, that they care, not that you agree with them, not that you do what they say, but you're really trying to understand their perspective.

That then that speaker will start to, at some point in time, they're persuading you, trying to get you to do something. And at some point in time they'll relax and they'll feel safe. And when they feel safe, instead of persuading, people will start to express themselves. And you can see it like people will think up, you know, kind of look up upwards, or their body posture changes.

Their tone of voice changes. They slow down, and as they express themselves, instead of persuading you, they start hearing themselves. And we all have a lot more complex thoughts in our minds than we often hear. And so then we start hearing the complexity of thought as well as the creative ideas that can show up through that process.

And then once they're able to listen to themselves, they can also recognize that things are not so extreme and people become less extreme in what they're thinking and have more. Which is important in the business world, Critical thinking. Um, ability to critically think and to come up with new ideas. And not only that, but they're more likely to listen to the other people in the room, to listen to other perspectives, which is really important for decision making.

Right. And so if you listen to someone and give them that space, not only the other thing is they'll like you more , which is nice. They'll be happy with your relationship. And employees are shown to, um, be more committed to the organization when they feel like their bosses listen to them. Mm-hmm. . 

[15:36] Gerrit: Yeah.

That's, that's really beautiful. And I, I, it, it reminds me of, um, the. Let's say when we talk about the neurobiology, we talk about the social engagement system, which you just explained. People feel safe around somebody who, who listens. And um, they basically, what what we're doing then is we are reducing the fight or flight response mm-hmm.

uh, in the brain. And, um, the interesting aspect is then talking about. Speaks out and gets clearer and their thinking creates new ideas and insights. The funny thing is, for me, this then happens through the, what should I call it? Human connection that is established with the listener. In other words, if this person would just.

Speak out loud in front of the mirror, or when they're alone in the car, they, they would not have the same insights. Would you agree 

[16:34] Raquel: with that? Yeah, sure. I think we can do a lot of self-reflection and self-awareness and learn about ourselves by ourselves, but I don't believe fully that we can. Listen to ourselves fully without another person listening to us.

I think there's a reason why we have people in our, by. There's multiple people in this world. I think , there's a reason for that. Which, 

[16:53] Gerrit: which makes the case for coaching. Right? , Martin, Martin. I noticed, uh, I, I was listening to you and I noticed I interrupted you. Sorry for that. 

[17:02] Martin: I'm, I'm thinking from working with change management in groups and.

When we're trying to help an organization to change where a leader wants to drive a new strategy, for instance, how much time can be saved by getting engagement early on in the process compared to the past when the CEO and the consultants, they locked themselves into a boardroom and a conference and they worked everything out in detail, and then they tried to communicate.

Cascading it down and like a hundred page PowerPoints, and then they assumed everybody would understand it and get to work and implement it. Yeah. Yeah. And I think today it's, we can turn the whole sequence around. Mm-hmm. . By starting with listening. Yeah. 

[17:54] Raquel: You know, and there's lots of ways to listen. You don't have to listen every time one on one.

You can, I mean, there's ways of use. You can use surveys, you can use, um, focus groups, you can use, um, I don't know, listening to certain people who are voices. But the thing is, um, what is important is to be able to listen to that, to take it into consideration, and then make sure that you share. and communicate back either decisions that were made or not made for what reason?

Um, that you, um, show what is being done because of what's being listened to. The actions that were taken. Mm-hmm. . So sometimes that, that full circle of communication is missing and then people perceive that nothing was done because it's not, you know, they don't know about it and or they get, don't get them engaged in that next level.

And, and then eventually you have employees giving up and not giving responses because they don't think anything's being done with what they say because they don't feel like they're being listened to, which may or may not be true. It's a perception. So for leaders, it's really important in change management, management to consider the full loop and not only sharing what you, um, listen to, but seeing how do, what do people do with it?

What are the action, you know, how do they understand it? Are they clear enough to be able to communicate it? Are they. Clear enough to be able to do something with it. What does it mean, you know, for them? But there's, there's so much that can be done. And the, if, if employees feel listened to, their performance goes up, um, in a way that, uh, what researchers term as organizational citizenship, um, behavior, this means that they're willing to go beyond their royals and responsibilities.

This is, that's what happens for people who are the speakers and for the listeners, if the, for you, your performance goes up because you understand what's important to your, the person you listen to, your customers, your employees. You understand their interests, you understand their needs. You understand what questions they have, where their problems are, so you're able to respond in a way that connects with your audience.

[20:00] Martin: It's so interesting. I, I wanted to connect to two things here. One thing that you said quite some time ago, which had about this word unconditional listening. So, but the first thing I wanted to connect back was, it seems like listening is perceived as something passive. Okay. I'm listening to you. Can you, I'm quiet means I'm listening, but it seems to be something that is much more active.

I can actually also talk to listen. Yes, 

[20:30] Raquel: yes, For sure. For 

[20:32] Martin: sure. As as, as a leader, I need to only listening for a few minutes. I might not get a deep thinking from the team, like you mentioned, like the team or the individual discovers more by talking. How would you say, can I be, how can I encourage then an individual or a team member to share more, to dig deeper and expand on their thinking?

[20:59] Raquel: So before I answer that question, Martin, what about, think of someone who's been a really amazing listener for you. Mm-hmm. . You know, someone that you've really connected with, tell me, share that story and like, what was it about that person? Um, yeah. The, 

[21:16] Martin: the, the first thing is they were really quiet and they actually really did give me this unconditional time.

I felt like I didn't have to give the right answer. Whatever I said was good enough. I think this is the safety makes me really want to share more and it makes me feel confident that what I'm saying or what I would want to say is, is good enough. 

[21:49] Raquel: How did you know that it was good enough? It's a 

[21:52] Martin: feeling when I look this guy, I can see this guy in front of me.

This was actually in the Swedish army, this specific example. So it might be a very strange example, but it was one of the best bosses I ever had, and I think it had to do with his body language, how he leaned towards me, how he, he, he was relaxed. And he also asked me very good questions based on what I said.

So it helped me. He actually built his question, what I said, not on what he was thinking. 

[22:35] Raquel: Uh, so here you're tapping into the magic

So he wasn't quiet the whole time. Hmm. And yet you still felt like you had the space to say what was on your mind without being interrupted, without being distracted, without being, without the focus, being taken away from you. Yes. You felt like you were, um, you were accepted that this is this unconditional part, No judgment.

And um, and you knew he was listening through the questions he was asking that were not because of what he needed, but it helped you to think further, to go beyond what you had thought so far. Yes, 

[23:21] Martin: and in a way it felt like a coaching session. even in, in, in a situation where I had, for instance, to debrief what my group had achieved.

Yeah. And, and that that was, 

[23:36] Raquel: Yeah. In this moment you still think of him in the highest regard, right? Absolutely. 

[23:41] Martin: Absolutely. And the trust I would have in him is extremely high at that time. Because of course, this also mirrored back into the respect I have for him and the trust I had. So when he spoke to me and asked me, This is how my plan is, or this is where we're going to go, I had no doubt that that was, was a very good idea.

[24:08] Raquel: So there you go. So this is exactly what that means. So here then, um, you felt like, so then you were more likely to listen to him and to trust him, and also the decisions that were made and there was, you know, there was a connection there. Hmm. Yes. He didn't have to force you , 

[24:25] Martin: He didn't have to force me at all.

Mm-hmm. . And I think he was a very smart leader in that sense. He made his job very. And then the really interesting thing is he also had this habit of having these conversations within the whole group. This means my colleagues were in the same tent, in the same comment tent, and he asked, He had a one-on-one conversation, but everybody could listen in.

And I think this was also truly. Great listening because the rest could listen to my thinking. And, and, and he then acted more as a facilitator of that conversation. Mm-hmm. And he saved a lot of time because when we left after this one hour, uh, morning brief, morning discussion, order giving, you could call it what you want.

Everybody knew what everybody was thinking. We had the same mental maps in our heads or what we had to do. 

[25:31] Raquel: So I love this example because it's a really nice example of showing many different things. Um, not only what I shared with you, the beginning of what I noticed about what created a good list and was a very active, a moderate listening, which also has a huge impact and great impact is when you're quiet and fully present and non-judgemental.

But this high level, high effective listening is one where you are, your questions relate to what the person was saying. You might even do some summaries or, you know, kind of reflect back on your understanding. Um, it has to do with your tone of showing that you're really present, whether it's your nonverbals, um, your body, um, Um, posture and whatnot, even though even if you have a video off the way the questions were asked, you know, that your, your, your listeners connected to you.

So this is one thing, but I think it's really fascinating that he spoke on a one-on-one in front of a whole group and that you felt safe in that environment. And a lot, the largest, the biggest influencer of quality listening has to do with the diad, which means between the person you're listening to. So the.

The, there will be some people that you will listen very well to and other people that you're not listening well to. That's the biggest influencer. Not that someone's a great listener, not that someone has a personality. It's the, the relationship between the two people and the fact that he was able to role model that also in front of a larger group and create trust and clarity through that process is, Great.

Uh, I have to experiment with that actually. No, no. It 

[27:09] Martin: was, it was perhaps a group between five to eight people, so it was not a big group, but it was big enough to to still make it potentially sensitive. Yeah. Yeah. But, but we felt 

[27:21] Raquel: safe. Yeah. And the fact that he saved time. This is often leaders like, Why do I have time?

Well, maybe in that moment because you're rushing, but if you take some time and do it well, and you do it well, Then you can actually save time in that moment and connect very quickly with the person. Um, and you also save a lot of time later, you know, because of other misunderstandings or building trust or, you know, there's a lot of other ways of influencing.

Mm, 

[27:47] Martin: really interesting. 

[27:49] Gerrit: So while I was listening to you, uh, the key that came up for me was trust and I think a theme. Perpetuates through our podcast is trust based relationships. And I see both of these, the trust and the relationships. Uh, I see this emphasized here again. And then I was also thinking, okay, if somebody's now listening to the podcast and says, Yeah, that all makes sense, how, how can I.

Be a better listener. And, and Raquel, you gave a lot of advice there already, and when I come back to the beginning of our discussion today, we talked about that listening is rarely taught. Um, to some extent I would disagree because what I think, I recall many leadership trainings where you learn active listening.

But what I also observed is that active listening is reduced to something that I would almost call a mechanical skill. So when you're talking with somebody, when you're listening to somebody, you keep, uh, eye contact. Uh, once in a while you're not, that you're still there and, uh, maybe you paraphrase what the other person is saying, but.

This is completely useless. I would say completely useless if the other aspects that you mentioned are not there. For instance, this, this presence, I mean, I can keep eye contact while I'm still thinking about the next meeting that is starting in 15 minutes. Right. Um, I can paraphrase without being.

interested in the person and we human beings. We have evolved to pick up signals from the other people very quickly and, and these signals, verbal as well as nonverbal. All this may happen without conscious awareness. Yeah. So if the other person, let's say their, their state of being is, I'm not fully present, I'm not really interested in what you have to say.

Then even with these mechanical techniques, the other person will sense that, that you're not really, uh, listening. Um, what, what would you say that this makes them the difference between what you called earlier? I think you used the terms moderate versus high quality. Listen, 

[30:28] Raquel: Um, well first of all, it's so funny that you bring up active listening, and that's what we're often trained, you know, Cause I question the active listening.

I'm not, I don't, I'm not a believer in active listening, or at least the original active listening from Carl Rogers was actually the high effective listening. But that's been, you know, morphed into something that probably ends up being a little bit more like fake listening. Um, or at least very surface level.

Listening, which might have some level. And a lot of the researchers I talk to, they, they kind of scoff off the act, the current active listening. They're like, ah, that's not, they don't believe in it anymore, . So if you go back to the original car Rogers, um, active listing, then, then you're good. But if you go to the current way, it's not actually that effective.

Um,

There is, you can do fake listing, but it only is maybe for very surface level type of conversations, just casual. And people may not notice. But if you wanna have really high impact, and that's what this is all about also in terms of your leadership role, then you gotta, you gotta pick up that not up quite a bit and do a lot more.

And just by not interrupting people, And being genuinely interested, you will have a huge impact. And the speakers, people who are speaking will have perceive you as a great listener, even though in the reality we don't know what average listing is. We, we haven't, we don't know that yet. It's very, that's not in the empirical research yet, but it does show that just by not interest interrupt.

Giving your attention and, um, maybe a few subtle signals that that has a huge impact. And you'll be perceived in a positive way and have impact on that person. And yet as leaders, we wanna take things further, right? We wanna take things further. So there is some research, research that's just happening right now about having conflict, you know, or, or challenging conversations.

And the, um, Uh, when people ask like, what you're, what you described, your leader, this leader doing Martin, when you, uh, listen in that way, then, um, then those people who have, even if they have, they know that you disagree with them, they're more likely. To become less extreme. And as they're speaking, they actually gain more insight about themselves and their own thoughts.

So they change themselves. You're not changing them. So they'll share their perception of have a strong, you know, opinion about something. And if you listen to them well with this high effect of asking questions, helping them to think further, really being, giving them your attention. Maybe even reflecting back what you heard, so they hear themselves.

Then the chances they will change and become more moderate and more open to other ideas is higher. Doesn't mean that they'll completely change, but it will. It's more. They're more likely to, yeah, become less extreme in their thoughts and, um, and learn more about their, their opinions than from themselves, than they had thought of before and have more complex thinking.

And we need critical thinkers in, in our business world. If we get so stressed out and nobody's listening to us, then our, our thinking gets worse. 

[33:47] Gerrit: Yeah, this is this really fantastic, and again, coming back to this, this initial question eventually, how, how can I have more impact as a leader when I communicate?

And it's this, this paradox where actually you can have more impactful communication conversations. When you speak less and, and listen more. But I, I have one question. Actually, one thing I struggle with myself, Raquel, I was about to say, I consider myself a quite good listener like everybody else does.

But one thing I struggle with is, and it comes back to what you said, being genuinely interested in the other person, not interrupting them. I would assume we all know people who can be very long winded and once they start talking, they go on and on and on. And even if I, if I do my best , I am interested in what to say, they make so long sentences, it's very hard for me to follow.

And in worst case, then I, I get bored. Do you have any recommendation for me and all our listeners? What can I do in, in such a case? 

[35:03] Raquel: Well, for those who are listening, who do that, No. Right now, just by talking does not me. People will listen to you. You're not making it easy for people to listen to you. They will get bored, they will check out.

They won't trust you. So a lot of time there's people who are talking a lot thinking. That just, if I talk a lot, people will listen to me, but you're making it hard for people to listen to you. So if you want people to really listen to you and then finding ways to, to be very clear about what you wanna say, um, be clear about when you're saying that, saying it in a way.

That your, the person you're speaking to can connect with. So what would they think, what would they feel, What would they understand? If I say it in this way, if you can use empathy in that way, um, and then you stop every so often, um, and pause and be interested in the other person. And you might be surprised at what might happen.

Um, so if people really wanna be listened to, then going on and on is not the way to do it. Yeah. Um, there are people who need to think out loud. And that's the process of thinking out loud. So if this is the case and you're someone that needs that, that's okay. But then you find people and let them know, Hey, I need some time to think through this.

And ask them to maybe ask you questions, to help, to help you. Pause every so often to hear yourself, ask them, be very intentional about it. But then do that before you go into the meeting and then be very clear with what you bring into the meeting that you bring to somebody else. And I also hear of in my coaching, you know, that.

Or when I do trainings, they're like, Oh my gosh. I had, I thought through my things, I was clear about what I wanted to say, and then I went into the meeting and I could, I was just trying to think how do I get that in there? And then I missed out when everybody else was saying I wasn't really connecting with my audience.

So if you do a lot of prep work and you get really clear about what's important, uh, to your audience, to the people in the meeting, what they may need to be able to listen to you, you've already maybe talked to some, some people ahead of time or whatever. Um, but in that moment, once you're there, you gotta let that all go and you gotta be fully present with everybody in the room.

And that has the largest impact. 

[37:16] Gerrit: I think that's, that's brilliant advice. But I was also thinking about, um, me as a listener in such a situation when I want to make an effort to listen to somebody and they keep going on and on, what do I do? What do I do? Right. Because I have, as you said, and I think that comes back to one, one of the classic examples of introverts and extroverts.

I've experienced this many times. Extroverts really need to think out loud. They need to speak out in order to process their thinking. So when I'm dealing with such a person, I'm always in between. And I said like, Yeah, I want to listen. I don't want to interrupt them. But it's getting increasingly difficult for me and I can't follow, So should I then, then interrupt? Or what can I do in such cases?

[38:11] Raquel: Yes. It's okay to interrupt sometimes , it's okay. You know, and you can say, Hey, I really wanna understand you. But that was a lot. Um, if you were just a, you know, what's in a couple sentences, what's important for me to focus. Mm, Beautiful. What's in, you know, that's, that's one way, or, you know, stop them.

Hey, that's, you know, I'm having a far hard time following because that's so much. Um, I only have about 10 minutes left or five minutes left. Even if you have 15, give yourself a buffer. Um, where, what would be most for you? Where should we focus? And then how can we best use the, the next 10 minutes or the next five minutes?

Just to help them to start thinking for themself what is needed. And um, something I talk about also with, if there's a pattern of this, um, and leaders have one-on-ones with some of these people where there's a pattern of this also getting very clear, maybe helping tr kind of helping them train them . So facilitating, you know, what's needed.

Do you want me just to listen to. and reflect back to help you to think through your thoughts. Um, would you like some advice from me? Do you need something from me? Um, do we wanna brainstorm together? This is, is this collective thing or do you need a decision made? You know, so these are a couple of categories to help them think ahead of time, What's the topic and what's, what do you need, what's our intention with this topic?

And often, especially younger, you know, people with not as much experience, they have to learn how to think that way. And as a leader, you can help gain clarity also in the meetings. With on one on ones, if you start trying to kind of separate those things a little bit, um, so that people, but the goal not to always follow that, the goal is to help people to be more intentional about their communication.

[40:10] Gerrit: I think that should work also outside of leadership situations. I think that works also well at home with your family.

[40:20] Raquel: Gerrit, what is your question around family? I have a sense there's something there. 

[40:27] Gerrit: Um, we, we'll talk about that in another episode.

[40:34] Raquel: Yes. All of the stuff that we learn here, it's good. It's good at work. At home, I had, I did a communications workshop, and I will tell you that my communications workshops are founded on listing. I do a lot around listing, even though you can't have listing without speaking. So it's, you're working on your speaking skills still, but we're with the, with the.

Focus on the listening piece. And I remember there was a software engineer at the end of the training when I asked, you know, so what are, what's your takeaway and what are you gonna practice next? You know, this is a very basic thing that you always do at trainings. And he's like, You know, I thought that if I were listening, if listening was just around content, I'm just trying to get content to do my job better.

And I thought, if it wasn't, if there weren't, if the content wasn't there, then it was a waste of my. And what I've learned is that listening is so much more, and I'm gonna go home and listen to my wife . I'm like, Yeah, 

[41:33] Gerrit: you saved the marriage.

[41:34] Raquel: I don't know about that. But you know that, that he tra, he recognized the power at work, but he also realized, hey, there's more at home.

Beautiful. 

[41:45] Martin: I'm thinking about this when we think, talking about what leaders should do and we should become better like this and we should do more of that, and we should stop doing this. And as leaders we have so much knowledge, but there is a gap between knowing and doing always. So I'm thinking about what's the conditions if I want to be this super hero listener, As a leader, what, what are the conditions?

What are the conditions that I could, could be aware of, should be aware of, to help me become a better listener? As a leader?  

[42:23] Raquel: I mean, the, I think every person really needs to pay attention to what conditions they need physically, whether they're tired under pressure. When do they listen Well, Who do they listen well to?

Maybe they do it well when someone's agreeing with them. If someone's not agreeing with them, then are they not doing well. So start to pay attention when you're doing it well or when you're not. And I would always, you know, try to find people who are honest with you. And, uh, who you trust to get some, um, feedback in terms of your listening.

And you don't, don't ask, you know, am I a good listener or not, but how did you experience my listening? Or how did you experience how we communicated? And you might do that in your meetings, you know, taking some moments, you know, Hey, I tried something different. Um, you know, how did you experience this? Or if people, if you're gonna do things different than, than, um, people expect you to, and you.

They think it's weird. They're like, What's going on with you? Let them know ahead of time, Hey, I'm, I'm practicing my listening. I'd like to practice it with you. Um, maybe we can do it with each other. And then at the end, you know, how did we experience that? What worked, what didn't work? You know, so to do some of that.

But anyway, so what are the conditions? But one of the conditions in terms of the empirical research that's really, really important is that you show genuine. That you're genuinely interested in the other person, and that as much as possible, you've gotten rid of. The, um, distractions, whether it's notifications coming in or, you know, if you're move, jumping from one meeting to the other, that you have a moment to clear your mind.

You get up and do some jumping jacks. You walk around for a moment. You, you intentionally, you write down your thoughts from one so that, and you're ready for the next, so that when you go into the next year, not you're fully in that moment and not in the last place that you were or, or you're thinking about the next meeting after.

If those conditions aren't there, it's better sometimes just not to even have that interaction, in my opinion. So, um, I'm, you know, it's okay if, hey, I'm not, I'm not really in a good space to listen to you. Well, can we schedule that in? 15 minutes, you know, or to schedule, not back to back meetings, but to schedule five to 10 minutes in between where you can process and clear your mind and be ready for the other one.

And often I have my, I have, um, questions asked, you know, Hey, I had a meeting with my boss and they weren't listening to me and I noticed this. Um, then I advised them to, to just pause and say, Hey, you seem like you have something on your mind right now. Is now a good time or should we meet a little bit later?

The manager, their manager may not even realize they're not present, and that gives them a moment to say, Oh, wait a second. Yeah, that I appreciate that, that you noticed, and give me a few moments, or, Oh, no, I'm with you now. And then they're fully present. , you know? Um, so if you notice the person you're with, being distracted or not fully present, instead of getting frustrated, just check in.

Say, Hey, I noticed you seem to have something on your mind. Do you need some space? Should we plan this later? It's, you know, it's much better for everyone. And the fact that you notice the other person is surprised and probably appreciates it. Mm-hmm. . 

[45:33] Martin: Right? I think this, what I'm picking up here is also around, Being clear on the, what's my intention as a leader moving into this meeting, and that sets the tone whether I.

Being in the meeting because of what I need out the meeting or whether I'm here as a coach, supporter, listener to the person in the room. 

[45:57] Raquel: Yeah. Versus being your pattern . 

[45:59] Martin: Yeah. What is my pattern and am I aware of that and can I kind of reset? Because of course, in a day I have many different of these meetings I need to reset.

Oh, that's what, is my role going to be coming into this interaction with this person or this team? Yeah. And I also like it as, as, as the listening side of it, I can actually then tell my boss, Hey, I'm, I'm seeing you might not be. Your mind might be somewhere else. There's, it's like a teamwork to make a good listener and make good communication is teamwork.

Yeah. From both sides. Right. I, I really like that point and perhaps we can encourage also the, the everybody to, to be more proactive. It's not only one person in the room needing to create the conditions for good listen. , there is, All of us in this room needs to contribute to the right conditions. Mm-hmm.

And, and that means also giving this feedback and in 

[46:56] Raquel: a team, that's a really interesting conversation to have. What is it the conditions that we need to work our best together. Mm-hmm. and not to, And I know I was talking to a, a friend who used to work for Google in um, Leadership and she said they would have like, uh, someone would ring the bell every time someone was interrupted.

And at first the bell was getting wrong many times. And then after a while it got better and people caught their own patterns. Um, you can do that. I wouldn't have this really strict, hard thing. I would find something fun and playful. Checking in, having a good time. Um, You know, really supporting, creating the conditions, um, that are needed at that time.

And, um, sometimes people just need time to just vent. Okay, then that's the con, that's what we need now. But even as a leader, um, you know, if, so I hear, you know, leaders say, Oh, we want people to be more engaged and speak up. The problem is a lot of times they go into the meeting and they speak first instead of listening first.

And once, uh, the person of power speaks out their opinion, they've already shut down the voices in the. And. Very, I mean, there's some people who will speak out and feel more confident, but to be honest, these quiet people, these introverted people are have, are amazing observers and have so much to offer that if you don't give them a chance or create safe space over time for them to speak out, you're gonna miss out on a lot.

And so I think it. I had, one of the best bosses I had actually was someone that we used to work with, Gerrit, who always listened first. And this is Susanna Morell. And she always also, in our teamwork, she would always have us speak first and then if there she'd be scratching off her little topics as we took care of him,

And if there was anything left. Then she would share it or take care of it. And, and if there weren't any, wasn't anything left, she would share stories about what was going on. And we had a good time. And I asked her about this later and she said, Well, how was I supposed to know how you were thinking or the group was thinking if I didn't listen first?

And I think that's, um, a very wise, um, very wise for a leader to how do you know what others are really thinking or what they're doing until you listen first. Um, and so I would recommend that. And one more thing, you were talking about resetting this work is harder than what people realize. And some of I work with, um, uh, a peer, another listening peer who wrote a book called Leadership and listening, Victor Perro.

And, um, he has a, we do a, we've put together a training program for leadership, um, also targeted at sea level, um, with the Rasmus University. And Netherlands and, um, the leaders that go through this program, it's a nine week program or 10 week program on listening. They often these people who are quick at learning things and can adapt really quick, they're like, Oh my gosh, this is the hardest thing I've ever done.

So it's, it's work. Resetting. The biggest thing is that reset. Becoming aware and resetting and resetting and realizing that it's so much more than just information. It's about trust. It's about building relationships. It's about, um, helping people to think better. It's about working better together. You know, It's, it's so much more.

[50:14] Martin: And that means then we are in the position to really create impact. Because I guess if you look at the role of the leader, it's not to do the work him or herself, not having all the answers by him or herself. The leader role is to get the team to help all of that. Mm-hmm. and then we can really create this momentum 

[50:33] Raquel: in the result.

So if I may just interrupt, so let's put this out there. What if, um, for the leader, it's not just about you. Listen. It is that, but it's about facilitating listening. Mm-hmm. in the organization, which is much more than the one on ones. And the teamwork, it's also facilitating at scale. And so how do you integrate listening into.

What you're already doing so that you can do it better. So it doesn't mean a whole new project and everybody's gonna listen, but it's more how do we integrate listening into the structures, into the decision making processes, into the meetings, into whatever, um, and then let the magic happen. 

[51:13] Martin: Mm-hmm. , I like that.

Facilitating at scale. That is great. Gerrit, what do you say? It's time to wrap up. 

[51:22] Gerrit: How do we wrap it up? Should we jump right into the reflection questions or is there anything else we should add first?

[51:30] Martin: Why don't we start with reflection questions and then we see if there is something left.

Because I think that in, in our podcast, we always trying to focus more on the thinking behind the reflection and what I can learn as a leader from my own thinking rather than the how to advise. . So I, I have a reflection question that I want to use as a leader, but I'm not sure. Uh, Raquel, do you have a reflection question for our listeners that they could bring with them?

[52:05] Raquel: One question that I ask, I use a lot and I think in, in, in my workshops and training that I think seems to, um, open up. The amazing power of listening is to consider a person in your life so you could, in your life that you, that listened to you, um, and it helped you. Whether, and this is like your example that you gave Martin.

So think of a person who listened to you and it helped you. It helped you have an aha moment, It helped you. Maybe you solved a problem, you came up with an idea, you realized what was really important. So like this, this kind of help, you know, that really helped you and then reflect back on that experience.

And what was it about that listening that helped you? Mm-hmm. and if you really pay attention, and then you, you take that and put that into practice with others. Um, You might be surprised, and I've asked that question so often to so many people and so many people come up with different answers and it shows you even out of a hundred people, I have 70 different answers.

And it shows you how big listening is. And, um, so start asking. It's a great conversation to have with people. 

[53:33] Martin: Mm-hmm. Great. And I, I had a, a reflection question, which is the same question as I also asked the this question about the conditions. And what are the conditions that I need to be a good listeners or perhaps the opposite where, what are some of the conditions where I need that?

Perhaps I need to be more aware. I need to be, uh, um, uh, I know perhaps I'm not going to be able to be a good listener. What are the conditions that I need to be a good listener? That, for me would be a something to reflect on 

[54:10] Raquel: as well. Yeah, and one other thing is what can I do to practice? my listening. Yes.

What can I do to practice my listening? Um, no matter listening to this podcast, no matter what you read up on it, um, that will not help you become a better listener just by knowing it . And so what can I do to experiment and play with it? Like what if. I do have a strong opinion, and what if that moment I reset and become curious like my, you know, six year old child that's asking why questions.

What if I were to become curious and then change my presence in this moment? How does this impact what this, uh, on the myself, on the other person, um, on the outcome of what just happened and start paying attention and playing and experimenting. Um, I, I know, um, that. Um, and because I experienced this myself that I thought I was a pretty good listener and that I could help others listen, that's when I got started in this whole game.

But I've realized over time that actually I've become a better listener over this time. And it's through, um, experiencing listening in so many different ways and, um, And playing with it and experimenting with it also with others in groups in all different ways. And through that I do believe that, I know that we know now that we can be trained to become better.

Everybody can, We all think we're better than what we are. We can get better. Um, people are usually surprised at how hard it is. Um, but it takes experiencing it and trying different things out to get better. And without just talking about it, is not enough. Hmm. 

[55:52] Martin: Gerrit, do you have a question? 

[55:55] Gerrit: A very quick one. And it relates to what Raquel just said, that we all think we are better than we are. I think that's very true for listening. Everybody thinks, oh, the others, they don't listen to me. But, but I'm quite good at it. So my reflection question for leaders is, how can I get honest, candid feedback on how well I'm, I'm actually listening that, that would be my one to add.

So, um, yeah, coming to an end here, Raquel. If people have listened today and they realize, Wow, this is, this is really interesting. I need to learn more about this, uh, super power listening. Um, maybe they want to use your services, what would be the best way for them to get in touch with. 

[56:45] Raquel: Well, they can go to my website, which is listeningalchemy.com.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and I would love for you to listen to the podcast. I'd love, uh, to get feedback from people. What's helpful, where do they have more questions or maybe even, you know, who they think would be a great person to interview because there's so many amazing and surprising ways that listening is being put into practice, you know?

And I like, I like shining the light on people who are doing that. Um, also I've been prototyping what I call listing playgrounds. So I've done listing labs, which are. I do that a lot with organizations and teams already, um, where it's kind of a first taste of this, this bigger listening that we've talked about today and to experience that.

And the listening playgrounds are more about practicing the skill in playful ways. So I don't explain listening. I don't talk about listening, but you get to practice it, um, in. Um, uh, in unexpected ways that you're, and, and see if you can grow your skills in that way with others. So I've been doing that.

I'm doing those once a month. Those people can sign up for free, um, and go to the website to do that or reach out to me. Um, but otherwise, um, LinkedIn and my website. 

[58:13] Gerrit: Fantastic. And, and we'll make sure we put these details into the session nodes. Raquel, thank you so much. That was fantastic. Really appreciate it.

And this concludes then our episode today. Again, if you would like the podcast, remember to subscribe on the platform of your choice and if you would like to help us grow the show, we will really appreciate it if you tell a friend about it, post about it on social media, and of course also if you leave a positive comment ore rating. More info about us and our work is also on our website, secondcrackleadership.com.

Bye for now and until next time!