This is the second installment of the Communication Series on the Aurum Blog.
Part 1 is focused on creating greater connection on a team
In the previous post, we discussed the significance of creating authentic human relationships on a team. The way we create genuine connection and understanding between people is by being fully present and available for the interaction. Communication is a back and forth flow of verbal and non-verbal cues between people, with listening being half, (or more), of that transaction.
The term "Levels of Listening" was coined by the Co-Active Coaching Institute, and has become a well-loved and used model to improve the quality of our listening. In this post, we elaborate the model to include the 3 Levels of Speaking, in addition to the Levels of Listening.
The Three Levels
Much of what happens in conversations and relationships hinges on the quality of our presence with and attention on others. In leadership, being aware of who we are being and/or how we are communicating is an important skill in relationship building and landing our message. How we speak and how well we listen have a powerful effect on the field, the room, and our relationships with one another.
The principle of the Three Levels applies to both listening and speaking and can be described simply this way:
The Three Levels of Listening
Especially in leadership roles, we often focus on communicating and expressing, and forget about the power of genuine listening. Listening does more than help us take in information and gain valuable insight into what is happening in different aspects of a company, team, or project. The very act of listening (or not listening) significantly impacts the relationship(s) within any group endeavor. The way people are listened to impacts what they share, how much they disclose, their ability to come up with creative solutions, and their sense of value and importance.
In this model, there are three different levels of listening, each one with a different impact on both the person speaking and the listener. Which of the following 3 levels do you do most often?
What if we told you that there is one secret ingredient that would dramatically improve your team’s performance, would eliminate hours of wasted time, and significantly reduce the energy spent on politics and drama? What if that ONE element required no advanced degrees or training, and could be added with simple steps that fit into your existing workflow. Would you do it?
As we read through the expanding body of research about high-performance teams, and participate in the collective conversation about the new world of work, we see that at the heart of keeping a team working well is CONNECTION.
When we work online, there tends to be a focus on efficiency and getting things done. Nobody wants to linger on Zoom longer than necessary, and the medium itself limits our capacities to connect. It’s harder to feel one another, our bodies and minds numb out from being static for so long, and spontaneous social chit-chat is clumsy.
Now, while remote work has its challenges, no doubt, we also risk over-romanticizing life in the office. While there are more opportunities for organic moments of contact and 'creative collisions' when physically inhabiting the same office space, it does not mean people are actually feeling connected.
What we mean by connection is a warmth and sense of shared humanity. It engenders fundamental goodwill and a sense of mutual reliance with the other person. Creating this kind of genuine, human-to-human connection requires attention and a safe space that invites vulnerability, honesty, creativity and laughter. At the end of our retreats, invariably someone says something to the effect of, “I thought we were doing OK, but now I feel so much more connected to you guys!”
We often hear that the concept of connection is relegated to the "soft skills" department, but the truth is that the sense of connection is vitally important for effective communication, learning, and producing results. As Adam Smiley Poswolsky describes in the Harvard Business Review, the challenge of employees feeling disconnected at work has enormous cost: "In the wake of the pandemic and the vast shift to flexible work from anywhere policies, 65% of workers say they feel less connected to their coworkers. Employee disconnection is one of the main drivers of voluntary turnover, with lonely employees costing U.S. companies up to $406 billion a year. Research by Cigna shows that lonely employees have a higher risk of turnover, lower productivity, more missed days at work, and lower quality of work."
Devi Cavitt Razo and Deepika Sheleff are co-founders of Aurum Leadership. They are also close friends who have dedicated their lives to creating powerful, honest, resilient relationships.