When I started thinking about this post and giving it the title it has, I actually felt old. I thought about my earliest days of life and the realization that OMG we actually did have only two TV channels. We didn’t say channel 1 and 2, but we did ask “what’s on the other channel”? Not even color … that didn’t come along for another five years! I don’t think I want to try to explain to a teenager today how excited we were to have two channels of television, when it is possible that teenager couldn’t find something they wanted to watch out of Today’s choice of 200!
What got me thinking about this was a concept I’ve been working with in my coaching program regarding having two channels on which I can listen. On either channel I can be listening intently, but the way it comes through my receiver can be dramatically different.
What’s on Channel 1? When I’m really listening on Channel 1 I hear every word you say. I listen to your words and interpret them based on what they mean to me. I take them in from the perspective of how they impact me, what I need to anticipate, what actions might happen, and what’s at risk. How do I use this information for my advantage.
What’s on Channel 2? When I’m really listening on Channel 2 I hear every word you say. But I’m now listening to your words from the perspective of what they mean to you. I take them in and process what you are feeling, what I know about what you are saying and what I don’t know. I listen to differentiate between facts and assumptions and I listen for what is possible. How can I use what I am hearing to help you or to add to our collective knowledge?
Channel 1 is about judging.
Channel 2 is about learning.
It’s been an interesting awareness and something that takes some practice. But as I got comfortable with shifting my listening over to Channel 2, I became much more aware of what is actually on Channel 1! It’s akin to static. A bunch of background chatter going on that actually tries to pull me away from listening, to protect me from what might go wrong, how I might be wrong or what might be wrong with the person I’m listening to. With all that going on it is pretty hard to hear what my conversational partner is actually saying!!
Channel 2 has a clarity much more in line with what we expect from digital media. When I get myself onto Channel 2 I’m no longer interested in me. I’m interested in the bigger picture. I’m listening for facts, choices, where I should take responsibility, what could help, and I’m accepting of things outside my norms. There is no noise because I’m afraid I’ll miss the opportunity to learn something!
The applicability of this approach as a leader Is incredible. With most leaders, team members don’t need a demonstration that the leader is experienced and capable. They already know that. They don’t want the judging that comes with Channel 1. They want clear and confident guidance. They want an unbiased sounding board. They want to combine the benefit of our experience with their energy, expertise and ideas. They want us on Channel 2!
As a leader, what do we get by being on Channel 2? I think the most important thing we get is insight into the real capabilities and potential of our team members, and we get to uncover opportunities for development where we can help with to amplify that potential.
Sometimes this is easier said than done. The average workplace is fast-paced with an environment based on “do more with less”. We struggle to find the time to get everything done, and we might think that it is easier to slip onto Channel 1, hear the real problem, make a judgment on the solution and move on.
For me, the secret to Channel 2 is maintaining a state of being present in the moment, not the tasks not yet done or future deadlines. This is not a simple thing and I struggle with it daily. When I can stay in that space I can stay on Channel 2. When I stay on Channel 2, I enable others to be more, when they are free to both more effective and more engaged. Things that I might have felt I had to do are now gladly done by others eager to have the opportunity to learn and grow. Suddenly the to do list and deadlines don’t looks so daunting!