Part 2: Listening To Our Environment
Listening is such an important skill in leadership of the self and others: we have to listen at so many different levels. We constantly have to make sure we are listening to individuals, but we also must keep our ear on the ground, ensuring that we know what the mood is in our department, organization, team, group of friends... Finally, we constantly have to listen to ourselves, ensuring we are still in tune with our core values, that we are not bring too self-absorbed, or that our energy is going in the right direction.
Today, I want to write about listening to our environment. I know, it's not often that we get to sit on a tree in front of the sea exercising our leadership! I feel that I sometimes tend to forget to step back and look at situations from a distance. Being present and observing what is happening around us takes effort.
As leaders, of ourselves and others, we must be able to gauge the temperature, the mood of those around us. Do we really know what is being said by the coffee machine? Do we have insights into conversations that are going on between our team members? Do we know when morale is high? When it's low? What makes it so? Are we aware of the relationships that are developing? Are they positive or toxic?
Listening means remaining alert in order to recognize when we need to adapt or redirect the mood. It also means creating and keeping communication channels opened.
Ways to know what is happening:
Be present. As a leader, you cannot hide behind your computer all day. Get out there, mingle, and talk to people. If there are specific break times in your organization, make sure you spend them catching up with your team. Be human, be social! I had a boss once who would always come out of her office during lunch time and she would stop and take the time to talk to those who were around. She knew everyone and at least one or two important facts about them - family, hobbies... and she would ask questions. She cared!
Ask questions. If you come across someone in a corridor, ask them how the project they're working on is going. If you are leading teachers, ask how their 11th grade class is going... Be specific, make sure your question is relevant to something you know is challenging for them. You'll be able to get a feel for their mood and perhaps, find an opportunity to set a time to meet and help them.
Observe. What do you see when you look around? Smiles or exhausted, frustrated faces? Do team members laugh with each other? Are they relaxed when they interact?
Of course, listening to your environment is just the first step. Once you know what the pulse is, you need to act on it. But that's another topic!
How does yoga help?
Yogic philosophy: One of the niyamas (Please see the page "Yoga and Leadership" on my website for more on the niyamas!), Santosha can be translated as contentment. Now, contentment does not mean complacency! Santosha is about being equanimous, not taking things personally, welcoming what comes and dealing with situations calmly. As we practice Santosha, we are able to look at a situation objectively so we can assess it and make decisions that are based on the greater good. As we listen to our environment, we can practice Santosha to stay balanced, objective and equanimous.
Physically: It order to listen, we must stay open to others. Heart openers and backbends are the key! If you are in the office, and want to stay alert to what is going on, you can simply clasp your hands behind you and bring the palms together, pushing your hands towards the floor. You'll just look as if you're stretching! If you are at home, then try a simple cobra pose. If you are a yoga practitioner, all backbends and heart openers will help and maybe your sankalpa, your intention in your next practice can be to be attentive to what is going on with your team?
Stay tuned for part 3, listening to yourself!
Image: Permengspace (France)