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What if you could hear the diverse voices already in the room?

It couldn't be more timely to talk about voices being heard when we look around the world right now and see the terrible damage and threat to peace caused when one global power (one leader) refuses to listen; when 'outside' voices are being suppressed to ensure people inside a geography can't hear what the world thinks or see the reality of the situation with their own eyes. It is deliberate suppression and distortion of the truth precisely because the leader knows that if the people could hear diverse voices, it would change how they thought and ultimately how they act and support. It's the most worrying of times.

With full-hearted acknowledgement of this tragic and globally significant situation which takes the highest priority, it has shone a spotlight on the danger of voices being unheard everywhere and much closer to home, maybe even in the workplace you are a part of.

There are fractures with the fabric of our own society, a gap that needs bridging in organisations of people feeling and being heard. It is noisy out there in the land of social media and journalism as issues of equality, diversity and inclusion rightly sit in the hotseat and different views are shouted across a divide. It's awash with rhetoric, statistics and personal experiences as firms vie to proclaim their forward thinking policies and EDI figures whilst people tell inside stories with passion and emotion, some good news stories but many disappointing experiences. As we know all too well from the current global big picture, diverse voices being heard is vital to better decisions, fairer environments and understanding of different perspectives and I wonder how well organisations understand that the key to inclusion, as for many perennial business (human) problems, is less about special projects and more about investing in the ability to listen. Listening is the missing link that would improve so many of the relational problems inherent in the workplace.

I read with interest McKinsey's report Diversity wins: how inclusion matters. There were powerful findings on the link between diverse top teams and financial out-performance:

"companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile—up from 21 percent in 2017 and 15 percent in 2014"

And yet, even within the Diversity Leader firms, the "social listening" that McKinsey conducted reported that the workplace experience lagged significantly behind in terms of how people feel about it; how included they feel:

"While overall sentiment on diversity was 52 percent positive and 31 percent negative, sentiment on inclusion was markedly worse, at only 29 percent positive and 61 percent negative. This encapsulates the challenge that even the more diverse companies still face in tackling inclusion. Hiring diverse talent isn’t enough—it’s the workplace experience that shapes whether people remain and thrive."

Hiring diverse talent isn't enough. It may be your organisation has invested hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, in creating more diverse teams because this is the right thing to do and has the potential to transform business performance but are the diverse voices in your workplace being included and heard? What if all that potential remained untapped because people simply are not being listened to?

Many of us are conditioned to believe that (and are rewarded for) the concept that adding value is about knowing the answers, giving our opinion, telling and advising. Of course there is an important place for these things; advisory professions are built on this. Clients pay because they want to be told what to do (right?). And yet, I'm willing to bet that taking this approach alone doesn't yield optimum returns, either in client relationships or when the modus operandi is replicated internally with the people who work together inside the firm. Being heard is as important as being advised. Inclusion is being listened to.

So knowing when to advise and when to listen becomes essential. What if adding value was about creating space for others to think better, eliciting new ideas, generating autonomy, enabling voices to think, speak and be heard? What if adding value did not equal knowing all the answers yourself but being able to listen brilliantly and empower others? That's quite the ego challenge. Having a means to over-ride a default tell mode unlocks untapped potential. I wonder if you've heard of Listening Lab?

We've spoken to numerous business leaders, Chief People Officers, learning & development leads and senior teams to ask what problems are keeping them awake at night in their organisations. Inclusion is near the top of the list but so is siloed strategy development, global and matrix working, hybrid working, psychological safety, honest conversations, mental wellbeing and more effective teams. In fact, we think there are 15 organisational needs that we believe Listening Lab helps to address. Think Perspective (my collaboration with the wonderful Heather Frost, one of the best listeners I know), is running a programme, Listening Lab, that's designed for real people in real workplaces to learn how to listen better. Imagine a learning experience that is grounded in the flow of real conversations and everyday leadership, that prizes meaningful and sustainable incremental gains more than shiny badges. An experience that promises to transform people's self-awareness of their impact on others, confidence and judgement to add value in a new way and skilfulness to utilise the super-power lying dormant in their armoury: listening.

What help does your organisation need to enable the diverse voices already in the room to be heard? What mindset and behaviour changes need to happen so that listening becomes a muscle that can be flexed at the right time, in the right way with the right people? What if you and the people around you were even 20% better able to listen?

If you'd like to find out more, visit Think Perspective for an overview of Listening Lab and the 15 listening needs we seek to address.

Talk to us. We're listening....


Source: McKinsey report 2019, Diversity Wins, Inclusion Matters

Think Perspective:

Imagine if in every room someone knew how to listen and help people think.

We believe listening is the key to unlocking all effective interactions. Better meetings, higher quality conversations, greater inclusion, stronger client relationships, innovation and inspiring leadership. Unfortunately, this quality of listening is the exception and not the norm. Organisations need people who bring this skill into every interaction with clients, managers, teams and employees. To grow a listening culture, it needs to become part of your DNA. It becomes the way things get done in your organisation. We help organisations develop this superpower with Listening Lab.

Listening Lab: bridging the listening gap for organisations.

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