Listening: The Bedrock of Organizational Culture and Leadership

Brutus Listening to the Ambassadors from the Tarquins, Louis Lafitte Circa, 1815

I find at times people are at odds about the same concept.  I believe it’s correlated to the culture and the related naming of these concepts.  For example, let’s explore mindfulness versus situational awareness.  Mindfulness is usually categorized as a new age concept in the West and originates from the East.  Situational awareness is part of the stoicism tradition in Europe and is taught in the US military.  I don’t observe these concepts to be different from each other.  Each one serves the same purpose of living in the moment and paying attention.  It is about getting out of one’s head and setting aside the ego for the greater good.  One can observe and know the importance of being present when it comes to relationships and leading.

I believe the basis of mindfulness/situational awareness is listening – not hearing, but really listening.  Listen to understand rather than to respond.  Listen to empathize and not to fix.  When a leader listens without ego, jumping to conclusions, or attempting to troubleshoot, they start to understand the bigger picture of what is happening right in front of them.  They also build trust between themselves and others which allows for more truth to float to the surface.  The leader becomes a signal in the ocean of noise; the people will feel psychologically safe and will be motivated and obliged to report to their commander. This allows for the emergence of solutions – for the fog to clear for the leader.

Letting go of the ego is key.  The ego fills the mind with fog and leaves no room for learning.  If one believes they already know, then they will learn nothing.  The leader who allows their ego to reign will not be able to perceive what is actually going on around them and in their organization.  

Trust in yourself as the leader, and as the DM.  Prepare yourself and know your intelligence, and your material.  Listen to your people, and your players.  Trust in yourself to be competent.  If you are prepped and present, you will allow solutions to emerge.  This does not only contribute to supporting the mission, or the campaign, but it allows people to feel safe and to enjoy their experiences.  People flower and become creative.  You will allow people to rise to their highest possible potential.  Remember that mission ops doesn’t lead to the proper solutions or creativity; it’s treating people without respect that stifles the workflow.  People are not bad; it is the situation that influences others’ behaviors.  Model listening and you will observe a positive cultural shift in your organization.  And it all starts with listening to understand.

I invite you to practice listening to understand in your everyday life and to bring it into your workplace. Let me know your experiences; please comment below!

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