That time of year is quickly approaching. For many people that phrase elicits thoughts of changing leaves, football, hot cocoa, lots and lots of good food…all culminating in a grand holiday season. As an accountant however, I’m talking about another time of year…busy season…da da DAAA.
Sure, we enjoy fall and the beginning of the holiday season like anyone else; however, there’s the looming “fifth season” that others don’t get to enjoy (said with a tinge of sarcasm). What makes this such a dreaded time of year?! The hours, the deadlines, the stressed out clients and colleagues…need I list more?
Surely there’s something we can do to not dread the coming months? I’ve written a few blogs on the topic, which you can access here on how to cope and will continue to do so in the next couple of months. I do have something for you to consider however, over the next couple of months before January. It’s simply this: we all want to be heard…especially your clients. Being heard requires someone to actually listen. Listening requires putting our own agendas aside and prioritizing the person in front of us. Really listening to your colleagues and clients this busy season will make your life SO much better–why? People will feel heard, validated, and as a result they will feel positively toward you which will make your stress decrease significantly.
Of Course Improv Fits in Here…
The key to improvisation is listening to understand. When you’re not listening to those around you, how can you respond in a way that truly adds value to the interaction? It’s the same no matter the situation, a client meeting, speaking with your spouse, or meeting someone new—in each of these interactions we have a choice in how we’re going to engage.
A common game used to develop improvisational listening skills is called “Mr. Know-It-All.” It helps people drop their agenda, listen, and focus—to be in the moment. I sometimes introduce this game in my presentations by asking for three volunteers to sit up front and face the audience. “Together, these people are Mr. Know-It-All,” I’ll say, “and can answer any question—but just one word at time.” To demonstrate, I’ll ask something like: “Why is the sky blue?” I’ll turn to the first person, then the next, and the next—each providing a word as they attempt to construct a sentence to answer the question.
Inevitably, each volunteer has formed some kind of plan—or agenda—in their mind for how they want to answer. However, when the player before them doesn’t say something that fits their agenda they get flustered and have to scramble for a response.
We never want to be caught unaware! But that fear causes us to come up with a script or an idea before the person in front of you has even finished—or started in some cases! However, contrary to what you may be thinking, when you allow yourself to listen, you’ll naturally respond appropriately. That’s what your clients need and want. They want authentic feedback and guidance. They don’t want scripted/canned answers to their concerns.
When we listen to understand, solutions are created quicker and more effectively—and guess what?! That makes for a much easier work environment for you and your team. Join my Yes, And Challenge to start practicing better listening. Share your challenge insights on Twitter with #YesAndChallenge or The Accidental Accountant Facebook Page.