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Listen with both ears

Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Yesterday, in a tense and political community meeting, I twice urged a table of volunteers “to listen with both ears.”

What the hell did that mean?

Typically, Elettore avoids buzz-phrases and jargon … and yet that expression came rolling out of my mouth with the Gravitas of Profound Meaning.

  • Did some childhood Sunday school time capsule in my brain suddenly release a Biblical snippet?
  • Had I read an online article which then embedded itself in my thoughts?
  • Was I trying to find a way to convey a concept of setting aside agendas in order to objectively gather facts?

The answers are: Yes, yes, and yes.

In at least one translation of the New Testament Book of Romans, there is a language to suggest that, in order for faith to grow, we must listen with both ears.

My father would be so proud to know that at least one time-released scriptural message had finally broken open in my brain.

Recently, in trying to assess why a Millennial client never asked questions about others, I dove into online articles on empathy (or the lack of it) as a communications characteristic.

That is when I discovered, Richard Salem, a mediator and former Midwest Director for the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service.

“Empathic listening,” Salem writes, “also called active listening or reflective listening, is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding.”

Professional mediators and therapists have written a great deal about tips and tools for empathetic listening. It is a topic worth Googling if you are trying to diagnose and manage intractability in any kind of group situation.

However, the greatest challenge to reflective listening today is mirrored in contemporary journalism.

A standard of news reporting was once “the balanced voice,” with journalists ferreting out both sides of a story. Today, journalism is more often agenda-driven, a kind of audience-driven entertainment, where writers insert themselves into the story.

As news consumers, we seek out the journalists who humor us — and the ideologies that reinforce our personal beliefs.

So, when we actively listen to others, what are we really hearing? An individual's own thoughts and feelings? Or the truths of others that have leeched into our intellectual topsoil?

Listening with two ears may just mean being able to be silent long enough to gather enough information to help us determine which is which.


Sometimes it is simply about results

Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2016


Yesterday, Elettore completed a client project that exceeded everyone's expectations.

We love when that happens.

In fact, we've created a niche for ourselves doing just that.

Our client was so pleased we were asked to name our own bonus. If only that happened all the time, too.

Elettore is a community relations company. We help you change people's minds.

We see online communications, face-to-face interactions, and public affairs as means to an end, not just selfie-worthy activities. We take risks because we know institutionalized fear is a liar. We also know it is not about us ... it is about what you need to accomplish.

We could go on about channel marketing, trans-silo onboarding, and synergistic solutions as our "wheelhouse" ... but we would rather just get the job done.

As we have done for these clients.

Elettore has no canned approach. Each new project deserves its own custom strategy using whatever tools it takes.

If you want to leap to a bigger fishbowl, sometimes it is simply about results.


Companies: Stop thanking us for our patience

Posted on Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Over the past three days, an organization has said to me — not once, not twice, but FIVE times — "Thank you for your patience."

On the phone. In person. Even on a phone APP, for goodness sakes.

So, I am now officially rankled by what appears to be the latest "trendy" corporate catchphrase. But apparently, I am not alone in my exasperation. Today at my gym, an exerciser near me clicked off a call and spat out, "If one more company thanks me for my patience, I'm going to let them have it!"

That's a glaring neon sign that companies need to ditch the ditzy phrase, ASAP.

'But why?' you might wonder. 'Isn't it nice to thank people for being patient in a trying business situation?'

Not really. Here are three big reasons the line threatens to do more harm than good to your organization's reputation:

1. It's controlling.  When an organization thanks people for patience before they've actually demonstrated it, what they're actually doing is trying to control upfront how the customer responds to the situation. The same way our mothers-in-law try to control how we will respond to the fruitcake they're handing us by saying, "I really hope you like it. I only spent seven hours in the kitchen making it for you."

In either instance, if the situation goes south, it's your fault. In the first case, because you're not as patient as you should be (no matter how ridiculously bad the service you're getting actually is), and in the second case, because you are an insensitive jerk (no matter how nasty that fruitcake actually tasted).

2. It's inauthentic. Your customers are fuming. She is beginning to raise her voice. Or maybe he is tapping his foot and shooting laser darts with his eyes. And you THANK THEM FOR THEIR PATIENCE?!  Now, on top of having delivered bad service, you've just told your customers they can't believe a single thing you tell them. Because, you see, they aren't really being patient. They just haven't yet expressed their impatience. Get it?

3. It's rote. Customers want to believe they are dealing with human beings who are listening to them, not robots on auto-pilot. But, "Thank you for your patience" ranks right up there with, "I'm sorry for your loss" and, "I hope you feel better soon," in the knee-jerk-response-to-a-bad-situation department. All the good intentions that accompany the phrase vanish with a poof if the person on the other end is thinking, "You know,  you're only the 47th person to say that to me this week."

And these days, unfortunately, you very likely are.

So what SHOULD an organization say when the system is down, the payment is two weeks late, or the stained glass window is now laying in shattered shards all over the driveway?

Something fresh. Something authentic. Something that strives to honor the customer's honest reaction rather than control it. Like, "I'll bet you had higher expectations of us, but I promise we'll match those soon." Or perhaps, "We can understand your frustration, but we're working 90 miles an hour to get things back on track." A phrase that also works nicely is, "Here's a 10 percent discount for what you've just experienced."

Whatever you do, DON'T thank me, yet again, for my patience. Otherwise this time, I might REALLY lose it.


Holocracy and community engagement

Posted on Friday, July 17, 2015

We're paying a lot of attention to the buzz over a new organization management philosophy called Holacracy.



"The traditional hierarchy is reaching its limits," Holacracy's founders state. "But 'flat management' alternatives lack the rigor needed to run a business effectively. Holacracy is a third way: it brings structure and discipline to a peer-to-peer workplace."

This decentralized model of management seems to be working for company's like Zappos and ARCA although reports are surfacing that mid-management is in a tailspin ... perhaps because their roles as gatekeepers are blown apart by Holacracy.

Elettore recently had the opportunity to introduce these new organizational principles at a board retreat for a non-profit organization. It seemed to us a solution to some of the engagement challenges the organization was having. To our pleasant surprise, the group enthusiastically embraced the idea of bringing holacratic practices into its volunteer-powered operation.

We will have the opportunity to monitor and follow their success and will report it here.