First, We Listen

As a blogger, I talk. Every week, I talk. I talk about what I experience, what I think, and what I think I know. As my web/social media coach says, “You’re a content machine.” Now that I’ve started podcasting, I realize that I know enough to be dangerous. Podcasting is an opportunity for me to listen and learn. Listening has always been a challenge for me. Seasoning helps with listening. Hearing people’s stories helps keep my fires going. I’ve been criticized by some, especially when I’ve started a new job, that I came in with a head of steam and wasn’t listening and learning. Valid, valid, valid. On the other hand, as a boss, when I hired someone, I knew that the first 30 days was key. Key for me to listen. I would ask, “What do you see? What do you suggest?” I needed to listen to those not-yet-assimilated perceptions. A ripe time for me to learn about me, my team, and the company.

These turn out not to be mutually exclusive. If I, as a newbie, shut up and listen, I may have more to offer when asked what I see and think. My best boss ever, Jim Bulger at Value Behavioral Health, demonstrated both to me (He hired me as Director of Quality Management,  my first senior leadership job). First, he shared privately that I was perceived as a bull in a china shop by my peers. Then he asked me what I had learned so far.  When I told him that I didn’t think we were moving forward as fast as he wanted us to, he asked me what I would do about it.  I told him, “Frankly, we need  to start with you.” (then I thought, ‘oh crap, what am I saying!?’ A career ending statement). But he said, “Ok, every morning I’m in town, you have 30 minutes with me, your agenda.” Woah, what a model! How empowering! The leadership team ended up doing great work together.

For a different angle, listen to an interview with Piper Perabo in the podcast, Women Rule. Ms. Perabo talks about her journey from actor to activist. She has privilege and access, but not so much experience. So she listens and learns from the activist veterans and uses her privilege to give them access. Seriously brilliant!

Expert listening is a common characteristic of my professional team. Here’s what the Academy of Communication in Healthcare offers.  I become open and receptive when the first move is listening, “Hi, what’s happening?”

First, we listen (Thanks, Advocates, Inc.) works for podcasting, leadership, advocacy, and healthcare.

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

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Danny van Leeuwen

About Danny van Leeuwen

Patient/Caregiver activist empowering people as they travel toward best health

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