Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Archive for September, 2013

How well do you listen?

2013-09-24 16.05.05We all know how to listen – don’t we?

Think about it for a moment. What is going on in your head when you are having a conversation with someone? I often ask this question in workshops and get a variety of answers, most of which, are not related to listening intently to the conversation.

So what is commonly going on it our heads?

  • What I’m going to cook for dinner tonight. What I have to do next. A conversation I need to have with someone else…. This is when we are not really listening at all – sometimes called spousal listening!!
  • Often we relate what the other person is talking about to our own lives. Instead of focusing on the intent of their conversation we relate it to ourself and start sharing a similar experience. The experience that we relate too may only be vaguely linked to the intent of the other person. When this happens we see conversations go off on tangents,  we leave thinking…. “I wonder how we ended up there, that wasn’t what I wanted to talk about”
  • Another option is that we are thinking about what we are going to say next.
  • Sometimes we problem solve instead of listening. We provide our opinion about the topic and suggest solutions.

We know that listening is made up of words, tone and body language which combined give us a more complete understanding of the intent of the person communicating with us.

Learning to really listen is not easy, we have to silence the voice in our own head and really focus on the person talking. It’s amazing how much we can learn about someone in a short time if we really listen. Their language can provide learning style, values, beliefs  and attitudes. Visually we can hear and see their passion and motivations.

Listening is an essential skills for facilitators and coaches – our intent is assisting a group or individual reach their own outcome.

Next time you have a conversation with someone I challenge you to really listen – listen like you have never listened before and see what you can learn.

As Steven Covey told us “Seek to understand before being understood” – good listening skills are one of the keys.

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Job descriptions – important for farms?

2013-07-06 16.41.28Yes!  Job descriptions are important on farms – as they are in any business.

In agriculture we often see businesses operating with limited structures around people management. This is not only for employees but also for sons or daughters working in the business.

I’m a great believer in having simple and formal processes in place to ensure everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities. It helps with accountability, manages expectations and reduces those assumptions which often end in tears or resignations.

Having job descriptions and performance reviews in place for sons and daughters in the business enables open discussion and provides an avenue for gradual transfer of decision making as skills and confidence grow.

Even if there are only two of you in the business clarity around roles and expectations assist with the separation between work and family life.

A couple of websites with great resources to help make it easier include

  1. The people in Dairy website http://www.thepeopleindairy.org.au/live-library.htm This website is a result of Dairy Australia recognising the importance of people to the industry. It includes masses of downloadable templates which can easily be adapted for any agricultural industry.
  2. For an overseas perspective – Labour Management in Agriculture comes from the University of California, Prof Gregorio Billilkopf. This site also has free downloadable books on labour management and conflict resolution. http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/ucce50/ag-labor/7labor/001.htm

Partners in Grain (www.partnersingrain.org.au) has been funded by GRDC to develop a workshop on managing farm staff. Contact your state coordinator to find out more information.

It would be great to hear of other useful resources any readers may have found! I look forward to some comments.

Communication is simple… Isn’t it?

Comm ProcessCommunicating a message from one person to another is simple… Isn’t it?

We make lots of assumptions that our receiver understands the information in the same context and intent that we have sent it. Unfortunately as we all know this isn’t always the case and the outcome isn’t as expected.

I really like the following quote from NLP (Nero linguistic programming)

The meaning of communication is the response that we get

Stop and think about that for a moment….. Yes it implies it’s the responsibility of person sending the message to ensure the receiver understands the content and the intent. The response that we get is a reflection of the interpretation of the message.

Every channel we might use including face to face, email, social media, phone etc is open to interpretation by the receiver.

So what gets in the way of clear communication and understanding? Our brain filters information – it does this to cope with the enormous amount of information it receives constantly. The filters will vary from person to person based on our perceptions and experiences.

The filters will include past experiences, beliefs, rules of thumb and so on, and will be influenced by our personality type as well. Putting ourself in the other persons shoes and attempting to see the message from their perspective is a good start.

When the communication is very important check in – follow the feedback loop – ask a question of the receiver. “What do you understand from our conversation?”

With simple instructions like “don’t shut the gate” our brain filters out the “don’t” and we often remembered “shut the gate” – this can easily be reframed in the positive to “leave the gate open”. Framing instructions in the positive usually has a more positive outcome!

Be particularly careful with email, especially with bad news or negative feedback. It’s very easy to read between the lines of emails and misinterpret the intent. If your message isn’t positive it’s best done face to face or, at minimum over the phone.

“To effectively communicate, we must realise that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this to understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” Tony Robbins 

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