Ultimately, collaboration is not just an interaction between two people but is really a listening for a shared wisdom.
⏤ Bettinger and Swerdloff (Coming Home, 2016)
The notion of "listening for a shared wisdom" is an idea that immediately grabbed my attention when I first encountered it while reading Coming Home in 2016.
Because it perfectly described how so many of my working relationships had changed over the past six years.
Now my working relationships were not just about getting things done. We were coming together in a new way with new questions and a mutual desire to find new and better answers.
To my surprise, new answers were not only showing up, but they were exciting and unexpected! So much so that I frequently found myself saying, "Wow"!
When you discover and get a sense of how to bring forward new and unexpected ideas into a conversation, it's truly a life-changing and life-enhancing moment. There are really no words to describe it.
Now I experience these moments regularly.
Why was this happening?
I think I can point to three fundamental changes.
One: I was no longer willing to accept the status quo and look the other way.
When new leadership came into the last company I worked for and initiated what many regarded as unethical behavior, I drew a line. However, before throwing in the towel and upon the advice of HR, I decided to report my concerns using the company's system for reporting violations of company policies.
Not surprisingly, within days, it was clear that my rights and identity were compromised. I no longer had a future at this company, and this experience firmed up my decision to leave.
Two: I now had a deeply held intention to make things better for everyone.
Before this time, I would characterize my key motivations as a mix of desires that probably most people have. I wanted to stand out and do great and exciting work, make more money, climb the corporate ladder, be admired by others, make my boss look good, and so on. All the things that modern society teaches us to strive for and be.
Now I had an intention to fix something I saw as broken in every company I had worked. I also knew from my conversations with colleagues; many felt the same way too but felt powerless to do anything about it.
Three: I started asking new questions.
I think everyone is familiar with the advice of asking new and better questions. However, I believe very few people put this idea into practice. If they did, we'd be living in a much different world.
I began asking, "How can I have an impact on the way people and businesses transform?" I set a goal of coming up with 100 ideas.
I only got to 70, but when I shared my ideas with colleagues and friends, I observed which ideas they got most excited about, and that helped me decide what to do next.
Taking shared listening to a new level.
In the summer of 2016, one of my connections on social media shared a link to a TEDx talk by Michael Neil. It was, "Why aren't we awesomer?" Michael is a widely known transformation coach and has written several bestselling books, including The Inside-out Revolution and others.
But the point I want to bring up here is that I experienced a total shift in my understanding of how our minds work by watching his talk. So much so that I experienced an immediate and dramatic quieting of the "noise" in my mind.
What is the benefit of a quieter mind?
There are many. I suddenly became noticeably more productive and creative. So much so that people who knew me were asking what happened to me! But the point I want to make in this article is the impact of a quieter mind on listening.
It just makes sense. When you are "listening" to another person, you now have an enhanced ability to quiet the voice in your head. The one that's thinking about the points you want to make in response or drifting off to your next meeting, upcoming vacation, etc. There's a lot less interference.
Needless to say, I was so impacted by Michael's TEDx talk that I wanted to learn more. I took a deep dive into his work, reading three of his books. I then interviewed Michael and sought other luminaries who were experts in understanding how the mind works, known as The Three Principles. That's what led me Dicken Bettinger and Natasha Swerdloff, authors of Coming Home.
You can learn more about this understanding of how the mind works from the following interviews in my book The Future of the Workplace:
• It’s Not About Working Harder, or Even Smarter with Michael Neill
• Do You See the True Paradigm or Not? with Sandra Krot
• What Is the Most Important but Least Recognized Variable in Business? with Dicken Bettinger
The following interviews are not in the book but still available online: