The Latest from the ABM Experts
June 3, 2019
Listen. Then Listen With Curiosity
Written by Sangram Vajre
This blog post is based on a podcast with Mark Greene. If you’d like to listen to the full episode, you can check it out below.
We did something a little different. This blog isn’t about ABM, or sales, or marketing, or even B2B. It’s about parenting. (And if you don’t have kids, don’t worry — this episode is also about leadership within business.)
Guest Mark Greene joined us on the #FlipMyFunnel podcast to talk about his book, The Relational Book for Parenting. In it, Mark explores the power of relationships, and the power between relationships.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- The power difference in relationships
- How to listen with curiosity
- The similarities between organizational marketing and parenting
- Holding uncertainty
What’s your book, The Relational Book of Parenting, all about?
Mark: The title of the book is The Relational Book for Parenting, and relational capacities are capacities which help us remember to center on the relationship whenever we’re interacting with someone else, and often when we talk about parents and children, you’re talking about roles. Often, we get into a mindset as parents that our role is to teach and tell, and our children’s role is to learn and then show us that they’re learning what we’re teaching. But you, Sangram, as a guy who’s done a lot of work in the business sector, know probably better than anyone, that it’s actually in the quality of the relationships where business gets done. So relational thinking is about centering relationships over roles, learning relational capacities like listening with curiosity or holding uncertainty, considering context, etc. You can apply these to parenting, you can apply them to adult couple relationships, and you can apply them in the business context.
PS: We have a book that’s coming out pretty soon called The Relational Book for Organizations, and it’s basically a set of these relational capacities you can use to create more generative, more creative, more leveling processes, whereby you can engage some of the bigger business challenges that are being faced today.
When you think of organizational marketing and the parenting relationship, how do these 2 relate to each other?
Mark: In an organization, a family, or in a parenting relationship, there’s always a power difference. Who’s considered to be the authority? Who’s considered to be the leader? We can fall into the pattern of defaulting to teaching and telling. When we’re attempting to get to a conclusion, in a process like designing a marketing program, or whatever it is we might be doing on the business side, it parallels what happens with children, when we’re trying to come to a better understanding of how to solve a problem or deal with an issue. And one of the central ideas that works in both cases, is this idea of holding uncertainty. So, if you’re a parent, and your kid has a challenge at the park, he scrapes his knee, gets in a fight, whatever, you can immediately default to a teaching and telling moment. “Well the next time that kid does that to you, you need to do XYZ.”
Or, instead, you can take on a not knowing position and begin asking questions and explore a wider range of possibilities and also let that other individual bring their own solutions. Because when those ideas come from that other individual instead of you teaching and telling, then you get more buy-in from them. Also, they often come up with plenty of ideas that are a better fit for the context. So this same kind of process — of holding uncertainty, listening with curiosity, not giving the answer right away, and waiting to see what emerges — brings more possibilities you can select from. Plus, people who may not be at the top of the power structure now have more of a chance to bring their own ideas.
In your book you wrote: ‘We live the stories we tell.’ Can you expand on that?
Mark: I want to tie it to an idea called listening with curiosity, which is part of holding uncertainty and this idea of letting more possibilities emerge. Let’s say you’ve been married for fifteen years, or you’ve been with your child 8 years. We have a tendency to say. “I know that person, and I know how that person’s going to respond to this issue, so let’s begin talking about it.” Instead, we could say:
“I’m going to intentionally listen with curiosity, I’m going to intentionally expect to be surprised by what I hear, and I’m going to intentionally expect to hear things that I haven’t heard before.”
The fact of the matter is, we as human beings are always changing, always growing, always shifting. And so, if you enter a conversation that way, even with someone that you’ve been married to for fifteen years, you’ll discover something.
Sangram: Here are my top takeaways:
- In business and in family: the quality of relationship pretty much runs the house. (The house being your personal house or your business.)
- Next, the power difference: I feel like we may not know sometimes, but we carry some power in any conversation, especially as a leader. You may not think about it — you just walk in a room and say something and you don’t know how it’s going to affect people.
- The last thing: We all need more answers. That takes a level of empathy and recognition that you don’t have all the answers, and the best leaders and the best parents, admit they don’t have all the best answers. When you lean in with curiosity and think about the relationships with people around you, things open up.
Mark: So what I would ask people to challenge themselves with now, is to slow down your daily process. Enough to imagine for a moment a relational space between you and the person you’re working with, and ask yourself the question, “How is the next thing I say going to impact the quality of that relationship?”