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Posts Tagged ‘Ask’

Lead By Listening

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

After a lot of hard work, you have been made the leader of your team or your organization.  And now, as a leader, you are anxious to start performing.

First, there is a level of excitement and then the pressure is on – to not only lead, but to lead well. What lessons have you learned along the way to get here? What leaders inspired you?

At those moments there’s a natural tendency to immediately start forging ahead – after all, you are all up to speed on the organization/team, vision, plan, and now, the strategies and tactics that will be needed to move forward.

And that tendency can easily lead to believing the thought, “Since I know the way and I can just push forward, my teammates will just follow me, and they’ll figure it out.”

There is however another voice as well. It’s the voice that says, “Wait, slow down. Is everyone on team in alignment to what is happening?”

When that voice speaks, the best response is to lead by listening.

People and organizations cannot move forward without being heard. The phrase lead by listening is very important – its representative of the one thing a leader has to do before they push forward.

Alignment – of vision, of plan, of strategy, of tactics, of metrics, roles and responsibilities – all of it can only happen if we listen first.

And it is not just listening to your immediate reports – the listening has to go all the way down the line, to every employee.

Listening is not a leadership assumption, as the impatient parts of our brain may love to think.  It doesn’t happen without effort.

A leader must take the time to make this happen, the old-fashioned way – person by person, meeting by meeting, and conversation by conversation.  

A good leader listens first before becoming a teacher who prepares his or her students, and then a coach, making sure everyone is ready to move forward.

Listening is a culture that may feel new, but it is critical for visioning and taking action. What’s happening now and where do you want to go are questions leaders need to ask and listen for answers. What is the company mantra that people are saying?

Serve your organization and team by asking key questions. Serve yourself by listening to the answers.

They are ready for you to lead.

And now, so are you, as you have listened to those around you. You are really ready to move forward.

Don’t succumb to that pressure to race ahead and get a lot of tasks completed before you take time to listen.

That way, you’ll never have to look behind you as you climb upward and bring others with you.

Lead well by listening!

Mary Anne


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What Is Today Asking of You?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

What is this day asking of you? It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily routines of life. We can mindlessly go about our business – getting our children dressed, having breakfast, commuting to work, running errands, or driving our car – that we forget about all the little moments in between that show us the miracles all around us. Are we willing to listen?

What’s new about today? What would you like to see change and are willing to do one thing to make that happen?

I have often heard people say, “It’s the way it is.” Yes, it is the way it is, until it’s not.

How will you listen to this day and all it brings you?

Mary Anne

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How Do You Make Decisions?

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

I realized recently that most of my decisions happen effortlessly. If I have to think too much or too long, then I know that the time is not right to make a decision. Or as Seth Godin says about the ‘Decision Before the Decision’: “This is the one that was made before you even showed up.”

When was the last time I made a decision? Probably when I was hungry and decided what food to eat. Other than that, decisions just happen when the time is right

Byron Katie talks about decisions in this way: “You can’t make a decision. You can only experience a story about how you made it. Decisions make themselves; they’re happenings; they come when the time is right.”

What a relief!
Mary Anne

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What Question Shifts Your Thinking?

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

I woke up one morning this week to the sound of pouring rain. It’s the kind of rain that makes you think it might come right through the roof. My first thoughts were of my commute and ‘worrying’ that the trains would be delayed. Trudging through many puddles, I made my way into my office. I unfolded my umbrella and realized that my pants were soaking wet from my knees down. I made a hot cup of tea to warm up as I listened to the cold rain drops hitting my office window.

Later in day, I felt like I wanted to stay cocooned in my office. I looked outside and all I saw was a dark, dreary sky and heavy rain, still pouring down. I wondered what I could do to shift my thinking about the rain. I decided I would ask myself what I loved about rainy days and make a list. I posed a question on Facebook: “What do you love about rainy days?” Within minutes a number of responses came in. People shared they loved spending rainy days “sleeping, reading, napping, going to the movies, smelling the air, noticing how the gray wet brings out bright colors elsewhere, having the opportunity to curl up with a good book or meditating to sounds.”

There it was – all I needed to know about the best part of rainy days. I asked a question that would shift my thinking and with that the whole day changed. I was no longer dreading my commute home. Now, all I could think about was a cup of chocolate mint tea, a good book, and a quiet night.

What questions do you ask to shift your thinking?

To celebrating rainy days,
Mary Anne

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“Turning to One Another”

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I just finished facilitating a weekend about energy healing, community building, and sacred ceremonies. Every six months, folks from all over the North East (and beyond) gather for a weekend to share in shamanic practices, mystical teachings, and fire ceremonies. As participants arrive on Friday, their anxiety is high and so too is their curiosity. By the end of the weekend, folks step into scared love and power in ways that are so full of liberation – singing songs and chants for all to share, playing drums, flutes, and rattles, sharing heart-centered struggles and insights, sitting on the grass and allowing the earth to teach them.

Throughout the weekend, the group turned to one another for support, for laughter, and for love. As I thought about how we turn to one another each day, I was reminded of the words of Margaret Wheatley.

Ask, “What’s Possible?” not “What’s wrong?” Keep asking.

Notice what you care about.
Assume that many others share your dreams.

Be intrigued by the differences you hear.
Expect to be surprised.
Treasure curiosity more than certainty.

Invite everyone who cares to work on what’s possible.
Acknowledge that everyone is expert on something.
Know that creative solutions come from new connections.

Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.
Real listening always brings us closer together.

Trust that meaningful conversations can change the world.

Rely on human goodness. Stay together.
(Turning to One Another, Margaret Wheatley)

Let’s keep turning to one another.
Mary Anne

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What Are You Doing?

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Twenty years ago I traveled to the Bahamas to volunteer for two weeks to help rebuild a library and assist with various clean-up projects.  I joked with friends that if God asks me to do service work in the Bahamas, who am I to deny the call? I traveled with two college staff and seven other students. We were asked to bring extra canned goods with us as we were going to work in a “poor” section of the Bahamas. I filled one duffel bag with peanut butter and jars of grape jelly. When I arrived at the volunteer center, I unpacked my turquoise duffel bag and found that a large glass jar of grape jelly had broken and my clothes were covered in broken glass and jelly. I started to clean the sticky bag and then I just lost it – I started crying. My bag was a mess and I thought the jelly would never come out so I threw the whole bag in the garbage – clothes and all. My friends told me they would help clean it out, but I told them to forget it and just tossed the duffel bag in the garbage. The next morning I woke up early to find my bag by my bed, all clean and saw that my t-shirts and socks had been rinsed out and were drying on a line outside. No one said anything about the jelly jar meltdown and we spent the next two weeks painting, cleaning, and playing with children.

I was reminded of this story last week after making dinner for myself (which is very rare). I began making food and then half of my dinner spilled on the floor. I exhaled exasperated and started to throw the rest of my dinner in the garbage. I stopped and asked myself, “What are you doing?” I slowly cleaned up the spilled food, fixed my plate, and sat quietly eating my dinner.

There are so many moments that I am unconscious of how I am reacting or responding. I realize when I am exhausted and have little reserve that I just give up. There have been hundreds of times throughout the last twenty years when I have had the “broken jelly jar moment” and wonder what other ways I have responded. Am I willing to allow difficult moments to occur and not let them overtake me? Can I pay more attention to what I am doing and how I am being?

What is your broken jelly jar story and how do you respond? I am grateful I spilled my dinner last week and that the MTA had signal problems because it allowed me to dig deeper into my internal resources and ask myself, “What are you doing?”

Mary Anne

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February OM Meditations

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

I am celebrating the joy and love of another month! One way I am celebrating is to share my morning meditations and contemplative questions as a way to open up to more love.

As an invitation, feel free to close your eyes, sit with your spine straight and take a few soft breaths. Then inhale a little deeper through your nose, and on the exhale, repeat the mantra OM (AUM).  Do this three times. Allow yourself to really feel everything and become the observer of your thoughts. Feel free to focus on one question or statement below and just allow your experience to unfold.

Daily living is our enlightened state. How are you living?

I am the perfect companion I seek with another.

When you question the mind, the only truth left is love.

In the end, love shows up, and if you are open to receiving it, the experience of love is infinite. How do you experience immeasurable love and how does it show up in your life?

How do you define and experience ceremony?

The magic moment, the miracle, the unexpected is happening – are you willing to take the risk and listen to it?

Beloved, what do you hear in the silence?

There is nothing to undo.

I will wait for you – always. In your time, I am here.

Each person will have their own experience­—the invitation is to be open for whatever thoughts flow through you. Allow your mind and body to expand into the experience (without judgment).  Feel free to start with whatever mantra calls to use.

May you experience expansive love in every way. I would love to hear about your meditation experiences – drop me a line anytime!

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,
Mary Anne

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