Friday, February 27, 2015

LISC Chicago Business District Leadership Program tackles “Active Listening”

An "Active Listening" exercise during the LISC Chicago
Business District Leadership retreat
Two years of planning is finally realized! The first LISC Chicago Business District Leadership Retreat is well underway. This program is an outgrowth of the Coro Neighborhood Leadership Program in New York – now in its fifth year. These programs are truly groundbreaking - they seek to provide leadership and skills training for a cohort of twenty commercial district practitioners annually. This is not your typical training program folks. These individuals were competitively selected and use the six month training program to hone the skills that they need to make their work productive. Today we are tackling active listening. When our masterful facilitator, Jose Acevedo, asked the co-hort this morning “how many of you depend on people over whom you have no authority to be successful at your job?” every hand shot up. That is inherent in this work. The property owners, the business owners, the political leaders, the community leaders and the funders who are our partners are not staff. They are not people who are paid by us and whose performance review is based on how well they execute exactly what we want. How many of you have faced the challenge of a recalcitrant property owner – someone who seems reticent to participate in your commercial revitalization efforts – yet controls a critical and visible property in your district? Or the business owners who bristle at your efforts to improve the district and refuse to engage?

Jose made the powerful point that building relationships with those individuals begin by actively listening to them. But what really is “active listening”? This is the definition we are using here: “ATTENDING carefully to what another person says, means, intends and feels and RESPONDING in a way that lets them know they are heard and understood.” The key here is that active listening requires two steps. First, listening. And next, talking to demonstrate that you have an understanding of what the other person said. That simple, very generous act builds the foundation for a relationship based on mutual understanding.

So go ahead and active listen today! 

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