In October 2016, a few weeks after starting the MBA, we attended a weekend residential at a hotel in Greenwich. Not only was it a fantastic opportunity to bond with my cohort, but it was also the weekend where I learnt the most about myself. Looking back, it was the most defining moment in terms of my personal development thus far. We were asked to complete an Insights Discovery test a few weeks before, which is a psychometric tool based on the methods used by Carl Jung. This helps people to understand themselves, how they interact with others and how to make the most out of relationships especially in the workplace.
Too much talking, not enough listening
Before we received the results, we took part in a few sessions designed to make us reflect on our personalities and how it can help or hinder progress in a group. Michele Williamson placed a pot of beads in the middle of each table and said that every time we vocalise, for whatever reason, we had to take a bead. By the end of the session most people had a small handful of beads, some had none at all and I had a massive pile. I was shocked because I have always considered myself to be a good listener, however there it was in front of me, physical proof that I was doing a lot more talking than anyone else and probably not nearly enough listening.
The Insights Discovery report was given out and we were given time to read and digest it. The results were scarily accurate; I couldn’t believe that a computer algorithm, using a multiple choice questionnaire could be so spot on about my characteristics and personality, even down to my little quirks. Most of it was really uplifting and affirmed what I already knew about myself but some of it was a bit hard to swallow. It confirmed what was clearly demonstrated with the beads; I often give the impression that I am listening but I am quick to silently dismiss ideas that I don’t agree with so I can continue doing things my way.
This prompted me to spend more time practicing active listening to improve my ability to really hear what others are saying and understand different points of view, even if I disagree with them. I have become much more conscious of staying present in the moment when listening to others; I try not to multi task (mentally and physically) because this diminishes my ability to fully engage in the conversation. I try to set aside my personal opinions, although I still find that very challenging, and instead try to understand where the other person is coming from. This has reduced the amount of conflict I face in group work and allowed for more productive idea sharing along the way. Finally, I try to ask more open questions to give quieter people the opportunity to share their thoughts, because they often have the best ideas.