In last week’s blog, I wrote about what it means to foster a team culture of respectful, real-time candor in contrast to one of inauthentic niceness. It’s easy to conclude that candor is all about speaking the truth. But the key to building a culture of candor is in how we listen.

Teams in which members feel comfortable saying what they think and feel, even when those things are controversial or critical, always have one thing going for them – team members practice courageous listening! That is, they listen to and consider perspectives that they might at first experience as disagreeable, disparaging, or disturbing.

In my 25 years working with teams I’ve noticed that courageous listeners tend to have three distinct qualities:

Genuine Curiosity: I can suspend my snap judgments for long enough to learn more about what’s useful or interesting about what the other person is saying.

Quiet Mind: I consciously listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply. I can notice and name defensiveness, judgments, and resistances within me but not get hooked by it.

Healthy Humility: I know I have blind spots. I see myself as an unfinished work. Getting to useful insights matters more than protecting my ego, winning, or being “right.”.

Courageous listening is NOT about agreeing with everything you are hearing. Rather, a courageous listener temporarily suspends judgment and considers what might have value and validity. Courageous listening is an act of bravery because it involves personal vulnerability – a willingness to be influenced, to learn, to be changed by what others say.

When you demonstrate courageous listening you create safety and invite others to be more truthful, authentic, and direct.

How has courageous listening helped your team to build a culture of candor?

Photo credit: Graham Richardson