Listen to the Heartbeat

by Jan Yuill

From time to time, I conduct half-day pro bono sessions with charitable organizations in the Ottawa area. There is a well-defined structure for the session, but they are very open in terms of what emerges.

For the first half of the session (1-1/2 hours), the organization (usually the Executive Director, and maybe one or two senior staff) introduces itself to 15-20 consultants, who have come to listen and learn. The presentation is very informal (no PowerPoint presentation!) and entirely at the organization’s discretion in terms of what is said. Basically, it is the response to a ‘Tell us about yourself’ invitation.

For the second half (1-1/2 hours) of the session, as consultants, we check our understanding of what we heard, and begin to explore the issues and possibilities with the organization, using the Organizations Alive! Model as a lens.

We just held one of these sessions last Friday.

A lot happened (which I will not go in to here), and I am still debriefing.

What struck me most profoundly was the importance and impact of listening to an organization.

And how difficult it is to … just … listen … without an agenda to solve problems, to move forward, or to make recommendations.