The Listening Leader: Collaboration is critical to innovation and opening possibilities #Level4Listener

ChurchillLast week I attended a facilitator training workshop at Centre for Continuing Education at Sydney University. These two days were probably among the my most valuable learning experiences, ever.

To facilitate means to ‘draw out’ and the create hospitable settings for conversation and dialogue. (Lord & Hutchison, 2007)

Facilitation is a leadership role in which decision-making power resides in the members of the group. This frees the facilitator to focus on creating a climate of collaboration and provides the group with the structure it needs to be effective. (Bens, 2012)

I had expected to spend two days assiduously taking notes about being a facilitator, when in reality our ‘facilitator’ led the process of learning by immersing us in the ‘doing’. He modelled everything, from the room set up, the culture of the group and communication.

Of all the many things we processed and experienced, one thing shouted out loud to me:

LEADERS LISTEN.Covey
Facilitating is a leadership skill, essential for those who are professionals in the field and valuable to those who move people, from A to B and implement strategies. Listening matters. But it is not “just’ listening – but how to listen. Listening recognises that I cannot know everything, but collectively we can make a difference.

Successful leadership depends on the quality of attention and intention that the leader brings to any situation. (Scharmer, www.theoryu.com)

In Theory U, C. Otto Scharmer identifies four different types of listening. He talks about the inner world of the leader and that successful leadership depends on the attention and intention that the leader brings to a situation. This is similar to self leadership or personal leadership, looking inward before leading others.

The listening leader makes a difference. In the past great leaders have been orators, ideas-generators and trail blazers. They moved ahead, often with others scrambling to keep up. Listening may not have been a key skill as these leaders seem to already know the answers. However, in the complexity of the knowledge age, when information can be easily accessed and people readily mobilised to action, a new type of leader is required.

As leaders today, listening is a critical skill for us.  How do we need to listen?

Level 1. Downloading: Hears what is already known. Re-confirms

Level 2. Factual: Pays attention to facts and focuses on what differs from that which is already known. New Knowledge

Level 3. Empathic: Sees through the eyes of another. Redirected

Level 4. Generative: An open heart and open will, listens from the emerging field of possibility. Changed

(Scharmer, paraphrased)

Level 4 builds on the previous levels and is essential in leading innovation, being open and listening for possibilities, from wherever they may emerge. It changes us.

Level 4 Listening: How to be a Generative Listener

Listen to:

  • Yourself, first, to what life calls you to do.
  • The others, those that may be related to that call.
  • That which emerges from the collective you convene

The journey of innovation starts with embracing the incompleteness of self and that of the challenge ahead. As the leader, listening to our own sense or calling and purpose is the starting point and cannot be ignored.

Other people are the essential contributors to the journey, not just the partakers of the end-product. This puts collaboration front and centre of innovation, not just an add-on process.  As Scharmer puts it, this involves leading with an open heart and open will. Grounded in the purpose and then listening with wholeness.

Leadership is so much more that taking people on a mystery tour toward change.

@anneknock

Reference: Theory U: Addressing the Blind Spot of our Time

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