The last few weeks I’ve facilitated a number of team culture days. They are all different. And they are alike in this way: when we work with other people, issues arise. Sometimes those issues linger and get buried, only to re-emerge later in bitter regurgitation.

Words can be weapons.

What we say in the heat of the moment can pierce a person’s soul and leave a weeping wound.

It’s hard to heal.

No leader I’ve met wishes to inflict pain on others. Sometimes we do so inadvertently – a lashing out when we feel bruised.

The only way out is through. And we do that by listening. This is the skill that is not only a competitive edge, but a survival one.

My wonderful friend Oscar Trimboli has written a fabulous book called Deep Listening. In it he unpacks the different layers of listening that we can peel like the proverbial onion.

In addition to his treatise, my recommendation is to encourage us to listen deeply with our full selves: our bodies, our hearts, and our minds. The sensations and images we experience through interactions with others are rich in signals, and ripe for reflection.

We need to both monitor our responses and be curious about them. They tell a story, but not always a useful one.

From there, knowing we are a bag of biochemical soup, we can invite our Other Person to tell their story. They too may be hurting. Their biochemical soup might be a little overheated too. With an ounce of care and compassion, we might be able to stir something together that doesn’t burn the tongue for good.

Working with people is hard sometimes. But when we reach out and listen, truly deeply, the sweet taste of connection is our reward.


Related Articles:

How to be brave for the people

How to Spot the Firebug – One of the Four Devils of People Stuff

Boundless Leadership: The Most Crucial Leadership Skill



  • Zoë Routh

    Australia's Leadership Expert, Author of Book of the Year "People Stuff" l Speaker l Mentor l Strategist

    Zoë Routh is one of Australia’s leading experts on people stuff - the stuff that gets in our way of producing results, and the stuff that lights us up. She works with the growers, makers, builders to make people stuff fun and practical.

    Zoë is the author of four books: Composure - How centered leaders make the biggest impact,  Moments - Leadership when it matters most, Loyalty - Stop unwanted staff turnover, boost engagement, and build lifelong advocates, and People Stuff - Beyond Personalities: An advanced handbook for leadership. People Stuff was awarded Book of the Year 2020 by the Smart WFM Australian Business Book Awards.

    Zoë is also the producer of The Zoë Routh Leadership Podcast.