Live By Listening

I do much of my coaching in my home office where my wife occasionally overhears my coaching conversations. She has learned to tell the difference between the levels of listening I use with clients. Like all of us, she wants me to really listen to her. She’s learned to know the difference and is no longer content when I am not listening deeply enough. If I don’t listen or jump to solutions too quickly, she gets frustrated and wonders why I can’t treat her like I do my clients. And if I apply listening skills that are too deep, she will tell me, “Don’t coach me, Dave.”

One of the best explanations of listening skills that I have encountered in my Coaching practice is the book Co-Active Coaching by Kimsey-House. Over the past year, the HGL coaches have been reading and discussing the key elements of coaching addressed in the book. I wanted to share with you what we’ve learned about listening:

Basic Listening

Listening at the most basic level, Level 1, is hearing through the filter of the listener’s own opinions, judgments, and attitudes. As they listen, the listener is preparing their response in a way that conveys how what they hear means to them, sometimes with a story of their own experience or a quick solution based upon that experience.

At this level, we hear what we want to hear and can often misjudge the speaker’s intent. This is the level where most people listen. We can all relate to conversations with our spouse or others we know well which have led to misunderstanding or an accusation of “Why don’t you listen to me?”  At this level, the speaker can feel frustrated and disconnected with the listener.

Speaker-Focused Listening

Level 2 listening is much more focused on the speaker, and the listener suspends his or her own opinions, judgments, and attitudes. The listener is not only hearing the words, but also the tone, pace, and feelings expressed. This type of listening generates empathy and collaboration.

Questions are asked by the listener to deepen awareness and connection with the speaker. Active listening techniques are used such as: paraphrase/telling back with statements like: “What I heard you say was …” and checking perceptions and reflecting back with statements like: “It sounds like you’re feeling …”.  At this level people feel really listened to and emotionally connected to the listener.

Intuitive Listening

Level 3 listening is using your intuition to discern more than the information gained through your senses. This is a level of listening that captures an awareness of the entire environment of the speaker, beyond just the words, tone, pace or even the feeling being expressed. It includes the energy that is being expressed and leverages intuition to combine information received through the listener’s senses. Through powerful questions, such as “What’s really important to you?” or “What’s motivating you?” the listener can tap into this deepest level of listening.

Coaches endeavor to spend their coaching time engaged in Level 2 and Level 3 listening. It’s on these levels where transformation can occur. When people feel really listened to, they see themselves more objectively and are able to step outside of themselves and the situation they are in to achieve breakthroughs in challenges they are facing.

In relationships that really matter, such as spouses, friends, clients, and significant others, listening skills can make or break the relationship.

Some people love coaching because it’s the only time they feel someone really listens to them. Do you have someone listening to you? Are you listening to others?

Post contributed by Dave Vogelpohl, HGL Coaching Catalyst.

Basic Training

Last week in our staff meeting, Rachel called attention to the marker board. John Maxwell’s “5 Levels of Leadership” were on there. I had used them in a teaching session I did that past week with our Young Adult ministry leader. About half of the group said they had never seen it before. I was stunned. I walked up to the board and proceeded to teach them through those basic principles. About 15 minutes into it, my tech guy says, “Gosh, I wish I was taping this!” They were all fully engaged and wonderfully excited. I was amazed that something so basic was so exhilarating for them. It’s a common leadership oversight.

The “curse of knowledge” is the illusion that things that are so familiar to us are familiar to everyone. I’ve taught the Levels of Leadership concept dozens of times. I refer to it often in conversations with leaders. I’ve taught it to my staff. Just not THIS staff! As I reflected on this experience, I realized there are some things that are too important to NOT teach. There are some concepts, ideas or training EVERY team needs to have. It’s basic training stuff. And it’s sometimes the stuff that we’re so familiar with we don’t realize they don’t really know it! Here are a few key pieces I don’t think we can leave to chance:

Leadership 101 – When’s the last time your team went through the Levels of Leadership? When’s the last time you covered basic concepts such as Taking Responsibility, Recruiting, Delegating, or Working By Priority rather than urgency? It’s stuff many of us do now by habit, but I’ll bet some of your team doesn’t!

Emotional Intelligence – If you’re a leader who is a high “I” on the DISC then relationships come easy for you. But what about your team? When is the last time you taught them skills like “Emotional Responding” or “Active Listening” or “The Power of Appreciation?” My guess is most of your organizational problems are relational in nature, yet we often forget to equip our team to manage those relationships.

Teamwork – We expect our crew to work together as a team, but we forget to tell them what that looks like. When’s the last time your group reviewed “The Five Dysfunctions of A Team” or talked openly about how things are going among you as a group? Sometimes we get stuck because we slip into dysfunctional ways of operating, and we don’t even realize it.

Vision – Vision leaks. Every good leader knows that. But even good leaders sometimes forget that it leaks faster the further down the ladder you go! When’s the last time you reviewed your vision in detail and asked each department to share how they were doing with fulfilling the vision by citing specific examples? I’ll bet you’d be surprised how some are doing. Or not doing!

Great leaders don’t forget that EVERYONE needs to know these things…and be REMINDED of them from time to time.

The lesson for me that day was that these are things I can’t leave to chance. It may be Basic Training stuff, but it’s also MISSION CRITICAL stuff! Great leaders don’t forget that EVERYONE needs to know these things…and be REMINDED of them from time to time. Vince Lombardi, the great former coach of the Minnesota Vikings, used to start every season by calling his players together and saying, “Gentlemen, THIS is a football.” For you and your staff, what is your football?

7 Things Motivated People Don’t Do

by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

At The Culture Works, our research teams have surveyed more 850,000 people to learn what makes people the most motivated and engaged in their careers. We found that when individuals are fulfilled on the job they not only produce higher quality work and a greater output, but also generally earn higher incomes. And those most satisfied with their work are also 150 percent more likely to have a happier life overall.

As we researched this subject for our new book What Motivates Me, we found the seven things most motivated, fulfilled people don’t do:

They don’t chase the almighty buck (if that’s not what motivates them).

Motivation is not about doing what anyone else thinks is right for you, nor is it necessarily about chasing a job that pays well if money is not what floats your boat.
It’s about aligning more of your work with what drives you. People differ enormously in what makes them happy—for some, challenge, excelling and pressure are the greatest sources of happiness. For others, money and prestige. And for others, service, friendship and fun are more satisfying in a workplace. The trick is in identifying your core drivers and then aligning your work to do more of what you love and little less of what frustrates you.

They don’t wait for a manager to motivate them.

The truth is, very few leaders know what’s really motivating to their people or, even if they do, would know how to apply that information to their day-to-day work. Motivated individuals have discovered that the surest way to happier and more successful work lives is: first, understanding what drives you and then second, doing some sculpting of the nature of your jobs or tasks to better match duties with passions. That involves working with a manager, of course, but most motivated people lead this effort themselves. They take charge of their careers.

They don’t leave to chase a dream job.

There is a prevalent notion that if you’re unhappy with your work, it will take a
Herculean effort to change things, that you have to quit and find your “dream job.” For the vast majority of people, that’s just nonsense. That’s not to say motivated people never change departments or companies, and we all can appreciate that if an individual is completely miscast or miserable, it’s not good for them, their customers, or their managers. But most people don’t need to take a risky leap; instead, they need to start by making small but important sculpting changes in their work lives. Many of the happiest people we’ve spoken with didn’t find their bliss down a new path; they made course corrections on the path they were already on.

They don’t believe everyone is motivated like they are.

One of the traps most of us can fall into is believing that other people are driven by the same things we are. We’ve counseled a bevy of frustrated teams on this issue. Perhaps the majority of the team members are what we call “Builders”—people who are focused on high-minded ideals like developing others, service, teamwork and a greater purpose. And most of those team members believe anyone who is not motivated in those ways is not a “team player.” But on the team are also a handful of people we would classify as Achievers, Caregivers, Thinkers and Reward-Driven, and these are the people who feel alienated and unappreciated. Great strength comes in recognizing and appreciating diversity, but we have to understand and utilize the motivational drive of others. For instance, the Reward-Driven person can make a team more competitive. Thinkers help us be more creative. Caregivers encourage empathy and fun. Achievers make us more goal-oriented, and Builders help drive purpose and meaning. Most teams need all Identities in play to function at high levels.

They don’t focus inward.

The happiest people we found in our studies typically focus their work efforts in service of others rather than on self-gain. That may mean they achieve more or sell more or do more because they truly believe in their products or services and genuinely believe they are helping their customers by putting those goods in their hands—versus those who are simply striving to win a deal and cash a paycheck. It’s a subtle change in thinking, but it’s important. Psychologists also say most people perform at work better when they focus their energy toward serving their families instead of themselves. Thus, motives based on the pursuit of power, narcissism, or overcoming self-doubt are less rewarding and less effective than goals based on the pursuit of providing security and support for one’s loved ones or being able to give of one’s gain to a worthwhile cause.

They don’t hang out with whiners.

We all know who they are: there’s typically a group of people who complain about everything at the office. If the boss pulls out her wallet and starts handing out twenty-dollar bills, the whiners will later moan that they weren’t fifties. The most motivated people avoid this petulant bunch. Complaining with no solution is a toxic habit. Sometimes making a positive difference at work is simply a matter of how a person chooses to think. We always counsel those troubled at work to look for ways to be authentically positive; for instance, publicly acknowledging a coworker’s accomplishment on completing a project. And even if it doesn’t help change the office environment, we remind them they can always do this at home: telling their significant others or kids why they are inspiring, always using specific language, not vague platitudes.

They don’t compare themselves to others.

The motivated people we interviewed don’t waste a lot of time comparing themselves to those who have more; instead, they regularly express gratitude for the talents, resources, and relationships they do have, not to mention their health, their friends, their own brilliance, their motivation, and their family who inspire them. Everyone is happiest when they are thankful for the gifts they have been given, and that gratitude should be offered up regularly to those around them who support them and help them thrive. Psychologists are only just beginning to understand the healing and strengthening mental power of grateful attitudes. The most successful and happy people are frequent and specific in their verbal appreciation of not only their colleagues but also family members and friends.

Post used with permission from The Culture Works. Authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton are the New York Times bestselling authors of All In and The Carrot Principle. Their latest book, What Motivates Me, is on sale now. 

How Healthy is Your Culture?


I believe that one of the primary, if not THE most important responsibilities of leadership is to create a CULTURE of health and vitality. We give an enormous amount of time on things that are ultimately superficial and often very little time on things that are at the core of creating a sustainable, successful organization. The culture we create through the systems we set up, either intentionally or unintentionally, will determine whether we manage by crisis, by dysfunction, or manage by pre-determined values and principles. Here are some of the diagnostic questions we should ask about our organization:

Do we address issues, or do we let them remain unspoken?

Do we respond to or address issues with honesty and with forthrightness, or are others often wondering what we “really” think?

Do we take ownership for things gone wrong, or do we make excuses or pass blame?

Do we make it safe and acceptable for people to offer their opinions, or do we label them as trouble-makers or not being “team” players?

Do we allow input and ideas to flow bottom up from those who are actually going to carry the work out?

Do we do constant, ongoing, ruthless assessment of our systems, programs and performance or only when a glitch happens?

Do we allow dysfunctional individuals to hijack our meetings, thwart our efforts and thereby rule our organizations, or do we confront unhealthy team members and hold them accountable to healthy interaction?

Lastly, and most difficult, do we confront our own toxic fears, behaviors and attitudes that are contaminating our organization, or do we give ourselves a pass because we’re the boss?

The answers to these questions will probably not help your church or organization explode with growth. But they just make help keep it from imploding one day. And for many of us, they will take care of most of what is really keeping us up at night!

Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything” is a good read for continuing this thought. Go be a thermostat for YOUR culture!


Post contributed by Steve Chiles, Senior Pastor at the Shartel Church of God in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Team Leader for the 2016 Leadership Network Gathering.

Bulbs Create Light

Today I find there are these six types of people in organizations with regards to how we handle light:

  1. Bulbs: create light wherever they are. The light often isn’t focused, but it is displayed in whatever arena they find themselves.
  2. Mirrors: reflect the light to places that the light hasn’t reached. They often have the ability to shine the light in places where the bulb can’t be or can’t be seen. They see places where the light is needed and reflect it there.
  3. Lenses: focus the light in ways for more intense impact. They are able to take the light and, by shining it through their own lens, they show the impact or importance of the light. They magnify the impact or intensity of the light in ways not previously seen.
  4. Prisms: refract the light into more variations through parsing. They are able to dissect the light into many different parts so the beauty can be seen and more easily understood in more places.
  5. Panes: let light pass through without substantially changing it. They are able to accept the light but don’t do much with it. Only after they are transformed through bending, do they become bulbs, mirrors, lenses or prisms.
  6. Black holes: taking all light around it and absorbing everything. Light is only meant to be consumed. It isn’t about reflecting, focusing or parsing the light. It is about absorbing it and keeping it all to themselves. These people can never have enough light and are never content with the light they receive.

Organizations desperately need people in each the first four categories: bulbs, mirrors, lenses, prisms. God has given us the light to put on a hill and let it shine. We are all responsible for what we do with the light. Due to our personal wiring, we can’t all be bulbs. Organizations need mirrors, lenses and prisms for the light to reach all of the darkness.

The fifth category (panes) are the people who are hanging around but don’t do anything with the light. We can’t be frustrated with these people but must have patience that someday they may be personally transformed into an instrument of light. We need to work with these panes that don’t transform light because one day, they will become a bulb, mirror, lens or prism depending on their calling.

The last group of people too often suck the life (and light) out of an organization for their own consumption. They care little about the light other than how will it meet their needs. Notice that each of the prior groups of people clearly steward the light they have been given for others. These people only steward the light for themselves. The organization needs to avoid these people like the plague.

Who are the bulbs around your organization? And the mirrors, lenses, prisms? Do you have panes hanging around who need to be transformed? Do you have black holes that need to be dealt with?

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