The (more subtle than we realize) Art of Listening
Recently I was helping facilitate a program on coaching for leaders, and on day 1 we spent quite a bit on time on the subject of listening. You may wonder why, considering it’s something we do every day and most of us think we’re more than competent when it comes to this skill. Think again. “This is hard!” “I keep wanting to butt in and offer my thoughts or advice.” I so appreciated the honesty and vulnerability from the participants. The bottom line is that most of us are average at best when it comes to this skill. And the problem is if you’re a leader looking to inspire and motivate your team to greatness, average just won’t cut it. This reminds me of a story from many years ago. I was speaking with someone who was known in the organization I was working for at the time to be a great leader. A fantastic reputation, the kind of person people sought out to join their team. So I asked this individual, what’s your secret. I was expecting something magnanimous, something I’d never thought of before. Some simple but not easy advice on listening The response caught me by surprise. “I give whatever or whomever is in front of me 100% of my attention.” I was underwhelmed to say the least. But they were really on to something. Because the reality of how we show up is often quite different. Let’s take the following scenario: Someone pokes their head in your office – “Do you have a minute?” They ask. “Sure!” you say, wanting to sound interested and helpful. You’re the boss that cares. You’re approachable. People like you. They walk in and your eyes are still on the email you were in the middle of writing. Your thoughts are still halfway consumed by it. You’re unaware you’re doing this. You’re halfway listening to what they’re expressing. You’re nodding your head in agreement, eager to get back to your draft. They leave and you carry on, you barely notice the interaction and later you forget all about it until they awkwardly remind you of what you’d agreed to in that moment. Listening isn’t an innate thing we can take for granted. It’s a skill. And just like any skill there is a methodology to it and we must practice it. The levels of Listening Level 1 – Halfway listening. In the previous example the manager I mentioned was listening at the equivalent of level 1. They’re halfway there, they’re caught up in their head in something else. They really didn’t have the time for the interaction but instead of setting a boundary and asking the person to please come back later, they acquiesce. The result is they’re not present, they’re not tuned in, and the person on the receiving end of the conversation knows it. The employee with the question leaves disengaged and slightly annoyed. People know when they’re not being listened to. Another version of level 1 is what […]
March 16, 2023
5.4 min read
Feeling is Freeing – A trick for processing powerful emotion
I’ve recently taken up a most curious sport – boxing. I kind of fell into it, not knowing what to expect, as it’s offered at my local yoga studio on Sunday mornings. Considering I have an unlimited monthly pass I figured what the heck and signed up. And after a few classes, I discovered the most wonderful secret. The first few classes I was just trying to get my bearings. I clumsily threw a 2 (right hand) punch when my trainer would call for a 1 (left hand). There’s a lot to remember regarding the numbers of the punches, the footwork, to remember to duck defensively. And then it just kind of clicked and something interesting happened. The power of the punch My punches got more powerful, my stance got increasingly steady, and I wasn’t just exhaling as directed by my trainer as I punched. Along with the exhale I started to emit a yell with every strike. The first time it happened I turned beet red, and my trainer Danna smiled and said to me, “Let it out. This is what boxing is all about. There are no rules about noise.” And so I did. And I increasingly do. And I gotta tell you folks, there is something about this boxing thing that is beyond cathartic. I now look forward to my Sunday session every week. It’s my release, my opportunity to let loose, to let the mad, crazy, and downright undesirable woman buried deep inside me out. I’ve started envisioning people on the punching bag, situations and problems that are annoying me, and I punch and punch and yell and yell to my heart’s delight. It’s quite a change from the refined southern woman I was raised to be. The one who was told to smile and be sweet and to behave like a good little girl would. Who learned to bury her anger and sadness and resentment lest it escape and make others uncomfortable. I let these feelings out on the bag and each time I leave I leave just a little bit lighter. This experience has also gotten me thinking about how we express emotions in general, particularly the undesirable feelings. The ones we don’t want to admit to having, things like anger, jealousy, vanity, pride, resentment and even guilt. Ignore feelings at your peril I’ve noticed over the years that we (and most often women) do something really interesting when it comes to our “negative” emotions. Firstly, we try to pretend that they don’t even exist. And when they’re especially powerful and we’re super worried they will bubble up to the surface, we shame them. We shame them into submission by saying things to ourselves such as: “You’re such a horrible person for thinking that. There’s obviously something wrong with you this thought even crossed your mind. If you were a better person this situation wouldn’t bother you at all. Just let it go. Let it go! A bigger person than you would be able […]
March 6, 2023
6 min read
Authenticity, Emotional Intelligence, Life Direction and Purpose
The Joy of Being Average
“You know what I’ve realized? I’ve concluded that it’s okay to just be average.” I heard this from a client a few weeks ago. He continued on to say, “For so long I’ve been worried about my image. What others thought about me. I would leave every interaction wondering whether I’d said the right thing. Worried that I didn’t. Worried about the interaction. Did I dazzle them enough? Wondering if they were seeing the smart and successful attributes in me that I wanted them to see. I had to get them to realize I was special, a star. Was I successful in getting the sale or the deal? Wondering how if it hadn’t gone well, how I could later manipulate the situation to get the outcome I wanted.” (We all do a version of this, just in case you were wondering if this is unique.) “Sounds exhausting.” I replied. “Extremely.” He confirmed. “And now you’re realizing it’s okay to just be average. How does that feel?” I asked. “I feel free.” I smiled. It reminded me of the moment when I realized it too. And the feeling of serenity and intense peace that came with it. I was so jazzed about the revelation that I even broke out into poetic genius and wrote a poem about it – The Joy of Being Average. It wasn’t a very good poem. It didn’t even rhyme. I even tried to find it to insert it into this blog because I thought that would make me look quite clever, but my filing system must be pretty crap because it’s disappeared. But I swear I wrote it. The Pursuit of Special is Stressful The image management aspect of trying to prove ourselves is exhausting. I got told growing up I was smart. I was special. I believed it. I so wanted it to be true. And it was all very well intended appreciation meant to lift me up from family members, teachers, friends and colleagues. But then I had to prove it. Then I had to live up to it. I spent a lot of time thinking about it. My image, who I wanted to be, who I wanted people to think that I was. An international woman of mystery, a courageous trailblazer who had conquered the globe and lived and worked in multiple countries, started my own successful businesses – twice. I carefully crafted and perfected these stories, used to spend a lot of time thinking about them for when I would give a speaking engagement. It had to be just right. It had to dazzle the audience. I had a whole wall in my office filled with degrees, certifications, accomplishments. I ran out of room for them eventually and started putting them in the bathroom. It’s not a surprise I did this. It’s not a surprise my client did something similar. Our context sets us up for it, and we unconsciously fall straight into the trap. If you look on social media it’s […]
February 21, 2023
4.2 min read
Emotional Intelligence, Well Being
What We Can Learn From the Groundhog
It’s been an interesting week here in Austin, Texas. The first ice storm of 2023 rained down on the city this week and considering the driving skills of most Texans in ice, we have all been ordered to stay put in the safe recesses of our homes (assuming you have power, and if not it’s every man for himself…). The Makings of One Massive Frustration Funk Not being able to leave the house for several days already had me in a funk. We extroverts need to be let out of our cage. Then a client offsite I had so carefully planned got cancelled due to covid. There went my perfectly orchestrated client schedule and my trip to New Orleans I was so looking forward to that just happened to perfectly coincide with Mardi Gras (Throw me some beads, Mister!). Unfortunately, no new beads for me this year. Add to that a 5-day migraine which started on Monday and is only letting up now, and it’s fair to say I haven’t been an easter basket of joy these past few days. My consolation had been old episodes of Married at First Sight (it’s addictive, I swear!) until we lost internet, so now I’ve been forced to work on this blog given I can’t stream anymore. And I’m mad about that. I need to know if Sonia says yes to Nick in season 4 of my show…if I were in her shoes, it would be a big resounding NO. This morning tensions came to a peak, no yoga for almost a week, and I found myself in what I often refer to as an emotional loop of doom – an ongoing diatribe that repeats in one’s head like a bad Def Leppard song. It’s easy in these moments to feel like you’re right back where you started. I was down on myself and life in general. I’m never going to figure these migraines out. Rescheduling the offsite is going to put my work back with these clients, it’s going to jeopardize the progress we’ve made. Why are these jeans so damn tight! Why does the internet hot spot on my phone not work! My ISP sucks! Why did the cat just pee inside in the pot of succulents – Jesus! And then my thoughts went to an even darker place. What’s the point of any of this! Does anything I do even make a difference! You know that sticky, restless feeling when you’re mad with everyone and everything including yourself? You can’t focus, you rush from task to task to keep yourself busy but nothing seems to help? Yes, I was there. And coincidently yesterday was Groundhog Day. A coincidence I think not! 3 Simple Tactics to Fight Frustration and the Curse of the Groundhog So I sat down at my computer and forced (yes forced) myself to do 3 simple things that I’ve often advocating my clients do (yes it is hard at times to practice what you preach!): Coaching Questions […]
February 3, 2023
4.1 min read
How to schedule priorities – a quick and easy method
This week I was teaching a class on life and time management, where I spent time talking with participants about the difference between time management and priority management. The difference between time management and priority management The reason for making this distinction boils down to some famous words of advice: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” —Stephen R. Covey Schedule your priorities We often jump straight into scheduling the things on our plate, without even determining whether we SHOULD be working on them in the first place. One of the best ways to ensure you’re clear on what your priorities are is to periodically check in with your line manager and simply ask. This may seem obvious, but just because something is common sense doesn’t mean its common practice! Research has found that managers and their direct reports often: Manage up – take the lead to align with your supervisor Amazing, right? But the bottom line is we live in a fast-paced environment, where priorities are constantly in flux. You’ve got to do the necessary work to constantly manage up, otherwise you may inadvertently be creating problems for yourself. So here’s a little homework assignment to do: Chances are you may be surprised what you find out! Once you’re clear on what your priorities are, the Ivy Lee Method for scheduling is a quick and easy way to schedule them. The Ivy Lee Method on How to Schedule Coaching questions for thought: Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them. Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you! I’ve recently been featured in Feedspot’s top 50 career coaching blogs. Check out what other career coaching experts have to say here!
January 26, 2023
3.1 min read
How to create psychological safety in your team (and why it matters)
What is psychological safety? The topic of Psychological safety has been getting a lot of airtime recently. One definition of this term is the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes. And as a leader, you’re responsible for cultivating it and fostering a healthy level of it in your team. It’s not about just being nice There’s one frame that often gets in the way on this front. Quite often, when leaders think about psychological safety, they assume it’s just about being nice to your team members, and they worry about sacrificing high performance for the sake of tiptoeing around each other and not having the hard conversations that need to be had. But the point is you don’t have to trade high performance in your organization for psychological safety. You can actually have both. I often find it helpful to start this discussion by looking at 4 different situations that often arise in team environments: So which of these 4 zones is your team currently operating in? Be honest! Over my time in business I’ve worked in a version of every one of these zones. But you don’t get to the Learning and High Performance zone by accident. As a leader, you’ve got to work to create it. So what can you do as a leader to increase psychological safety and performance? Consider some of these options, adapted from the work of Amy Edmonson, Harvard psychological safety guru: Coaching questions for thought: Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them. Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you! I’ve recently been featured in Feedspot’s top 50 career coaching blogs. Check out what other career coaching experts have to say here!
It was a privilege to work with Shelley as my leadership coach! The process was structured and yet flexible enough to meet needs as they arose. Shelley helped me to grow, learn more about myself, and to really achieve what I set out to accomplish. We worked on planning, navigating a promotion successfully, and so much more! I experienced many successes as a result of working with Shelley, she has great resources, knowledge, and really helps with setting the foundation to this coaching work. She won’t let you down!
Having the opportunity to have Shelley as my Leadership Coach could not have come at a better time in my career. I was recently promoted to CFO and was new to the Senior Management Team. Shelley helped me navigate joining the team as well as helped me to determine who I wanted to be as a leader. The Leadership Circle Profile helped our team to discover our blinds spots and to be able to understand each other better. Working with Shelley not only has affected my professional life in a positive way, but also my personal life. She helped me take leaps and has given me the resources to continue this journey of self-improvement. If you’re looking to find more about yourself and how you can be the best version of yourself, I highly recommend working with Shelley.
I have been working with Shelley for the past 2 years on my leadership development journey. What I thought would be a straight line, I soon learned with Shelley’s guidance, was a winding path with several ups and downs along the way. Shelley supported me as I took a deep dive into my professional and personal history and learned how it affects my approach and my perceptions. She helped me to slow down and recognize certain behaviors and understand that I can pivot in the moment or try again next time. Ultimately, my work with Shelley turned out to be so much more than what I expected. Her approach to coaching was exactly what I needed.
Senior Vice President, Consulting
I’ve learned more about leadership in the past six months working with Shelley than I have in my 10+ year career. She is an incredible coach with many tools in her toolbox. The guidance and mentorship I’ve received from Shelley has been life-changing. She will challenge your limiting beliefs and inspire new ways of thinking.
I highly recommend Shelley if you need a coach, thought partner, and guide as you consider the next steps in your career. She provides practical tools and advice to help launch your career exploration, but most importantly, she is an expert at helping you cut through the noise of your limiting beliefs. At the end of our time together, I had a much clearer vision of what I wanted in my life and a plan to make it happen. My only regret is that I didn’t find her sooner!
My career coaching sessions with Shelley have brought me back to living. It’s been contagious, spreading throughout my personal and professional life. I now have the building blocks I need to continue setting healthy boundaries, the freedom to show up as my authentic self, and an adaption of a growth mindset that has allowed me to make bold decisions and try new things. I’ve discovered that there’s always another way and how to eradicate barriers that lead to tunnel vision. These sessions with Shelley have been a great gift and have given me the momentum I need to continue the journey to be my best self.
It is amazing to think where I was only 10 months ago when I first started working with Shelley and where I am now. Not only professionally but mentally and emotionally. Shelley helped me navigate out of an unhealthy work environment by challenging me and asking me those tough questions we never seem to ask ourselves. What are the values of a true leader? How do those values align with my own? Shelley challenging me and guiding me through some of those tough questions is what led to my epiphany and me having the courage and confidence to leave an environment that threatened my well-being. She taught me how to become more self-aware and self-compassionate. Reminded me to be kind even when the world would understand if I did otherwise. And the biggest one for me, shutting down that crazy inner voice (we all have it!) and replacing it with being present. Shelley has armed me with tools that I will carry with me for a lifetime. Tools that will help me to continue to grow and learn. Life can be hard but working with someone like Shelley does make it easier. She will help you navigate the good and the bad and you’ll learn so much about yourself in the process.
Director of Marketing
First of all I would like to say that I would recommend Shelley to anyone needing career guidance. As my counselor Shelley helped me transition my career from bartending to Tech Sales which was a difficult and scary transition for me. From the start Shelley was fantastic. Initially I had no idea of which direction I wanted my career to go, I just knew I wanted it to go somewhere else. Shelley was so kind and patient as she helped me figure this out, and gave me a step by step guide on how to explore my options and make an educated decision. She also helped me assess my skill set which played a large part in directing my energy. I landed a great job within days of my final session with Shelley, and now I’m month 3 I am absolutely loving it and doing very well. It was the perfect job for me and Shelley was the one that got me there. Working with Shelley was one of the best decisions I have ever made, she literally changed my life and I am so much happier for it.