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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Why You Should Stop Interrupting People and Become a Generative Listener

There is a kind of non-listening that goes on in our society and organizations that is distracted and disjointed, and often marked by interruptions. This non-listening doesn’t focus on the person speaking. Rather, the listeners try their hardest to get their ideas into the conversation.

If you’ve experienced this, you know how frustrating this can be both for someone trying to be heard, as well as for the listener trying to stay focused. Many of us don’t know how to listen, or don’t care.

This disjointed listening doesn’t work well for completely understanding and being present to the person who is speaking. It cuts off creativity and hijacks people’s brains with their frustration at not feeling heard. I’ve heard leaders state that their employees aren’t creative when in reality, they simply haven’t been fully listened to.

Generating new ideas calls for a level of listening that forgoes frustration, and it is completely possible to achieve it with discipline and practice. Let’s call this “generative listening” (a term coined by Nancy Kline in her book, More Time to Think).

Generative listening can open up latent creativity. It isn’t easy, and...

I'm A Recruiter. Here Are The Questions I Hear Most Often From Job Candidates

With unemployment near 17-year lows, we’re continuing to see a very hot market for skilled job candidates. But an element that’s essential to finding and hiring great talent is failing many organizations. Simply put, employers are not hitting the mark with their descriptions of job openings. These listings describe the position, but fail to entice prospects to want to learn more. In addition to outlining required skills, job descriptions also should provide a glimpse into your company’s culture, its mission and purpose, and the role itself. Details of the job just aren’t enough today.

The people you want to hire are likely already employed. They may be open to considering a new role, but they need to be convinced that your opportunity is worth pursuing. Here are the questions I get asked most frequently by prospective candidates after they read your job description or first hear about your open role:

#1 What’s the salary range? Candidates raise the compensation question very early to make sure it’s a fit with their requirements. Savvy hiring managers don’t waste applicants’ time–or their own–by waiting until late in the game to disclose salary. Money isn...

What the College Football Championship Teaches Us About Leaders and Followers

One of the most critical leadership characteristics is decisiveness: Dithering is destructive. But decisiveness alone does not automatically translate into implementation. A leader must do the hard work of creating followers who effectively, efficiently, and successfully respond to the leader’s decisions.

A perfect example of that truth occurred this week during the college football national championship game. Alabama coach Nick Saban replaced his long-time quarterback, Jalen Hurts (who held a 23-2 record), at halftime with a freshman, Tua Tagovailoa, who up until that point had played very little.

Tagovailoa led Alabama to an overtime victory on a 41-yard touchdown pass. The interesting question is, why did Alabama’s players follow Saban’s decision, support the rookie, and win the game?

Following a leader’s decision with full support is never automatic. In the real world, vision creation is often difficult, but Saban can tell his team every year, “our vision is to create a team capable of winning a national championship.” Vision creation, though, is only the first step. Unifying the 125-person roster around the vision is the challenge.

The Alabama team roster is filled with type-A personalities, five-star high school rated athletes who dream not just of being...

Three Daily Resolutions of Effective Leaders

It’s hard to resist the feeling of personal and professional rebirth that comes with the passing of one year into another. A fresh start is cathartic and motivating. Of course, as anyone who has resolved to change and failed by February knows, this feeling is fleeting as human nature runs smack into real life. That’s why the most effective leaders understand that daily discipline always trumps annual resolutions.

Lead With Empathy

One leader I know starts her day by reminding herself of the saying, “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

I’m thankful for learning this lesson from her. My typical approach as a younger manager was to run straight at issues and people. I got things done, but the approach lacked empathy (to put it mildly).

Now, instead of bulldozing my way through people and issues, I collaborate. I take the time to uncover interests and to find ways to design solutions that meet more than my own needs.

It might sound like I’ve compromised my commitment to results, but that’s not the case. By pausing and recognizing the individual(s) and their perspectives, I’ve achieved a multiplier effect...

People With Sense of Purpose Tend to Do Healthy Stuff

People who have a sense of purpose in their life tend to make healthier lifestyle choices and report feeling better about their own health status, according to a new study.

“Our analysis found that participants’ sense of purpose was positively associated with their reports of both vigorous and moderate activity, vegetable intake, flossing, and sleep quality,” says the study’s lead author Patrick Hill, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University at St. Louis.

The study, which appears in the Journal of Health Psychology, set out to identify pathways and mechanisms that might explain how a sense of purpose contributes to health benefits. The analysis uses data from the long-running Hawaii Longitudinal Study of Personality and Health, including new surveys of a diverse group of 749 people with an average age of 60.

Hawaii study participants were initially surveyed as children, part of an original community sample of elementary school students on the islands of Oahu and Kauai, and have been re-contacted as adults to complete surveys approximately every two years. The sample is known for its ethnic and cultural diversity.

The Big Five

“Participants reporting a higher sense of purpose also reported a greater likelihood to...