Are you listening?

Of course we’re listening!

But not always to what others are saying to us.  We’re very often listening to our own thoughts and just tuning in when a response is needed.

We’ve all experienced conversations, where we are talking and the other person nods or responds with an “uh huh” or “yup” occasionally (but not always in the right place) and their eyes are just not with us.  It’s pretty deflating to be talking to someone who’s so wrapped up in their thoughts or whatever they are doing. Especially if it’s a meeting where you’re agreeing to do something or make changes and you leave half heartedly, knowing that what they agreed upon is unlikely to happen. Or worse, if you get on and do what you agreed, they will question it at a later date, claiming to know nothing about it.

I’m not talking about having a conversation with someone who is clearly not listening as they are checking their emails or texts or browsing a news site.  Those situations are easy to spot and you know for a fact they’re not tuned in to what you’re saying. The ones that aren’t so clear as so much more of a frustration and challenge. When “the lights are one but there’s no one home”, or when you realise someone is physically present, but not taking in what’s being said, there is little point in continuing. So there goes a wasted conversation or meeting.  And it doesn’t make you feel great, either. It shows little regard for you and demonstrates the fact that you and your opinions are not valued.

Or does it?

Have you ever been stressed? Too much to do, not enough time.  Staff or colleagues asking constant questions. emails streaming in, meetings scheduled.  No time to actually follow up with actions. Perhaps something is going wrong and you’ve got lots on your mind.

Sound familiar?

When all this is going on, are you good at listening to others? I mean really listening.  Or does your mind wander off to attend to all the stressful and worrying stuff, meaning that you’re unable to hear anything that’s being said.  You’re just willing them to go away so you can get on with all the other things on your long list. It’s not actually that you don’t respect them or don’t value their opinions, it’s just that you can’t focus on what they’re saying because you have other things on your mind.

You will probably agree that such a meeting is not going to be productive.

If you’re in this situation, the first thing to do is ask yourself if you’re going to be able to find a way of focusing on what’s being said.  If this is impossible at that moment in time, don’t carry on with the meeting.  This is not always possible, so ask yourself what is important at that moment in time. Realise the impact you have on someone if you’re not listening to them. If you’re very busy, agree to a set length of meeting, agree to a clear purpose or aim and make a commitment to being completely present for them for this set time.  They deserve that much, surely? (You might find this article on sticking to the AIM useful).

By being clear about how long you’ve got and what exactly you will discuss, and by listening carefully, less time will be wasted and all parties will feel more valued and clearer about what they need to do.

See if you can be more aware about how well you listen to others notice the impact on your time and relationships when you are better tuned in.

If you’d like to know more about how working with a coach can increase self awareness or if you’re interested in training your staff to listen better, get in touch.



What’s the AIM of this?

Cull those tasks that don’t align

When coaching and training, I so often see clients struggling to bring focus to what they’re doing and finding their workload stressful. Asking what the aim is of all the work and the mountain of tasks and meetings, makes a huge difference – see what you think.

Ask yourself…

When was the last time you worked out why you’re doing what you’re doing? Or indeed, have you ever stopped to work out why you’re doing what you’re doing?

Why not stop right now and have a think.

What is the aim of all the tasks that you tick off your list? What is the aim of all the meetings that you attend, the emails you write and respond to, the research that you carry out?

It’s worth writing this down, as your aim is something that should be at the core of everything you do.  But, ah, it’s not as simple as having your own aim.  There is the higher aim of the business / organisation in general (incidentally, do you know what that is? ) and your aim needs to align with it. Melded together, this over arching aim serves to bring clarity about how to spend your time and whether all those tasks, meetings, conversations, emails, really need to be done.

Put your overarching aim in the centre of all your work activities. Every morning when you come to plan your day, check with yourself that all the tasks on the list are aligned with your aim.  If not, it’s worth asking yourself if they really need to be done. You might be surprised at how much stuff you do because you have always done it or have never questioned its purpose.  And you might be pleased at how much time you can save, leaving more space for the more important stuff.

In a meeting, when conversations veer off point or participants go off on a tangent, it’s worth asking how this meeting is aligned with the business aim. Imagine all the time you will save by keeping it focused and relevant. Take it a step further and see how much you can influence the actual agenda, and encourage the question

Does every item on the agenda align with our aim?


Again, there are often too many agenda items that remain because it’s what has always been done, and no one had questioned its relevance or usefulness.

Your aim  is important when deciding which conversations you embark on.  Yes, it’s fine to have a chat with colleagues to find out what’s been going on for them on both a work and personal level, but these conversations can become too frequent and too long.  Then you find that your “to do” list gets longer and you don’t have the time to get much done. If you feel it’s a really valuable conversation, and by simple being mindful about how useful it is, you will start making decisions about whether it’s one for the coffee shop at lunch time, or one that could be made more formal as it’s definitely one that helps further the aim.

Reduce stress

We get stressed because we have too much to do, we reach overload.  Ask yourself how much of what you do it actually fits in with your aim.  It might mean culling a few tasks, which could be tough at first, and even feel uncomfortable if it means being honest with some people, but you will find that it frees up time to get on with what’s important. And that can only be a good thing if it reduces your stress levels.

Your personal aim

There is of course your own higher aim – the one which drives you, makes you get up in the morning, brings enjoyment and satisfaction to your work.  You need to pay careful attention to this one, as if your work doesn’t align with it, you may find yourself losing interest and finding work pointless. There is nothing like the feeling when what you do fits perfectly with what you feel is important. Ask yourself how you can do more of this.

Start the “aim project”

A simple way of starting the “aim project” is to take some time to actually work out what it is. Get together with your team and ask them.  It’s amazing how this can focus the mind.  Work out what the business aim is and what the aim is of your own role. Come up with ways of ensuring that these are always at the front of your mind during planning sessions and at the start of each day, meeting and project.

You will find it brings a great level of focus and effectiveness to all that you do.

Why not start now?