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  • Tara Rethore

Listening to Learn

I’m becoming a podcast junkie. Increasingly, I find podcasts to be a welcome respite from reading or viewing, two visual acts that can be enjoyable or efficient and simultaneously, utterly exhausting.


Required only to listen, I release my other senses from the (conscious or unconscious) obligation to engage. Listening, I free up my brain to focus solely on a single task: processing the information currently being presented. I am not distracted by color or imagery or extraneous movement. I don’t even have to remember to blink.


For me, the best podcasts are conversations between host and guest, conducted so that I feel a part of the conversation, without having to contribute to it.


Listening to learn, I’ve unlocked insights that resonated for me as a leader and advisor.


Here are five:


1) We all have the capacity to change. The Great Resignation is also a “Great Example”. So many people are not where they want to be right now, personally or professionally. For many, the events of the last two years highlighted this knowledge and catalyzed them to action. First: they needed a break – deliberately making the time and space to reflect. What is most getting in the way of achieving your objectives?

2) We have more choice than we think we have. We all get stuck in a rut periodically, feel trapped, and are impacted by circumstances outside our control. At the least, we can always choose how we’ll respond and often, the consequences we’ll tolerate. More often, we have other choices, too – the most powerful choice being simply: Will you take action or maintain the status quo?

3) One action, taken consistently, becomes a habit. A new calendar year is often filled with resolutions. Big goals. Vast promises. We all know the statistics; most resolutions fail. Resolutions are powered by a collection of habits, good and bad. Habits are consistent actions. Not getting the results you want or as quickly as needed: What’s the one thing you will do differently and consistently?

4) “Hold your beliefs lightly.” (Jake Humphrey) In other words, be open to new ideas, other ways of thinking, and the opportunity to deepen meaning and understanding. This does not mean abandon your values or believe in nothing. It is simply a reminder that a belief is merely a “firmly held opinion or conviction.” (Dictionary.com) It is a habit of mind. Thus, a belief can change, particularly as you gain more knowledge, data, perspective, and understanding. How well are your beliefs serving you? Which beliefs are making it easier or harder to achieve your objectives?

5) Reframe. Reframe. Reframe. Charting the course with executives to accelerate performance, I often challenge them to think and act differently. Turning a question or situation inside out, for example, creates perspective. It’s not an indictment of past performance. Reframing is an invitation to see things differently or imagine another outcome. In many respects, it’s also an enabler of the preceding lessons. Shifting perspective inspires new actions, behaviors, and outcomes. Faced with a client’s thorny challenge, I often ask an open-ended, strategic question: What will it take to [be better, do better, make it work, inspire others, etc.]?”

On its own, each of the five lessons is potentially powerful. They’re also interesting in combination. Having the capacity to change and more choice than we realize gives us the freedom to do things differently – or pursue different things. One action, consistently taken can set us on a new path, particularly if we remain open to new ideas and perspectives that shape our beliefs.


As I say in my book, Charting the Course: CEO Tools to Align Strategy and Operations, strategy is a journey. Learning to reframe the challenge, situation, or belief makes way for new learning and insights to navigate your journey more effectively.


Are you listening to learn?