Season 1: Finding and keeping great people

Bobette Buster Author, Film Producer, and Professor of Storytelling

How leadership enlightenment comes from listening

So often in the workplace, we reach an impasse. When the project (or relationship) has stalled, and it becomes impossible to arrive at a consensus. It’s imperative that you keep going, that you try and find a new way forward. Your team, your boss, even clients and customers, will thank you for it.

Listening to breakthrough

The eminent American psychologist, Carl Rogers, developed a useful process to help resolve disputes, conflicts, and long-held polarised differences. It’s a useful thing to have in your toolkit when tricky situations arise, and you need to find a way to break through. The following ten steps are based on this:

  • Bring both parties together in a new setting. Provide comfy chairs, a cup of tea, a different view.
  • Treat each other courteously. Remember, listening is the foundation of respect.
  • To neutralize intense feelings, start by discussing something shared and ordinary, like the weather, the traffic, a recent sports or cultural event. No politics!
  • When it comes to discussing the problem or issue, make sure both sides are allowed to speak. Set an equal time, say 5 minutes each. No interruptions. No note taking.
  • Then each side must try to paraphrase what was said back to the other. This demonstrates they’ve listened and understood.
  • Take turns. One speaks, the other paraphrases. If the listener’s response doesn’t reflect what the speaker is trying to say, the speaker can rephrase using different words and allow the listener to paraphrase again. In doing so, the listener will invariably become more empathetic.
  • Both sides are free to speak their truth. To tell their side of the story. Try to understand and try not to be judgemental. That is the intent here: understanding not judgement. Avoid sighing, eye-rolling, and so on.
  • Stay open. Expect there to be an ‘Aha’ moment, however slight.
  • Expect to discover humility, even forgiveness.
  • Be willing to let go of all outcomes, and begin a new chapter.

Find a new way forward

In the words of Leonard Cohen, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Once you’ve seen the world the way the other person sees it, you may need to accept the situation has changed. This may have consequences; it may even upset others around you. But this is the beginning of a more understanding and tolerant workplace. Dare to let go of the past, and find a new way forward.

Your silent superpower

Take the time to create a space for listening, for new pathways and solutions. Remember to use your silent superpower: listening. Of course, you may not be changed, the other person may not be changed, but you may be able to find some common ground. And this can be foundational to the relationship moving forward. Who knows where it might lead!

Foundations built on trust and understanding

Every business has a story, littered with crossroad moments of decision and consequence. How we move through these moments together is what builds bonds. Foundations of trust. It’s how we create a more positive company culture and encourages people to stay.

In my experience, where there’s kindness, there’s the potential for each person to be heard and valued. This leads to mutual respect and loyalty. To long-lasting working relationships. A culture of empathy.

It’s here that the best solutions are found. The breakthrough moments.