Learning to Listen

“The biggest communication problem, is we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply”

Iffet Burton, from our second Open Programme cohort, shares how her understanding of listening was transformed as a result of her She Leads Change experience.

“Deep listening is where you focus on the person in front of you: you do not speak, you try to stay out of your own head and really hear the words/emotions/expressions of the speaker.”

About, three weeks into the She Leads Change Open Programme, I began to grasp how to listen, yet a year later, I’d sometimes reflect on conversations, and realise I was away in my head and not really listening…then felt upset at having left someone feeling less special than they deserve.  We like to be listened to…

I have always listened and as a Teacher, my students were annoyed with my ability to be across the room talking to one person and pick up their conversation at the other end (just like most parents can) – they were, of course, off topic and I would let them know they needed to stop.  What I did not realise, is that I learnt a habit of looking like I was distracted when listening to others. 

When I first started in Pearson this habit was noted, and some of my peers felt I did not listen when they spoke to me.  I could not understand why as I always gave the correct responses and actioned everything.  It took my going on the She Leads Change Open course to learn about the skill of deep listening to understand why.

So here’s a partial ‘I’m sorry’ to those who thought I was not listening to them.  

I try very hard now, to stay in focus on what is being said to me and I get a better response.  I also remember not to multi-task when someone is asking for my help, I have learnt to say: please give me a moment, finish my task and go and give them my undivided attention.

It can be part of the issue with remote working, that some people feel they are marginalised and not heard or able to participate in discussions.  I read a document written by the Pearson Senior HR Manager, Kevin Lyons who publishes on GroSum which points to this situation.   

So next time you are tempted to type whilst on the phone, or type while answering a question to a colleague, consider if you left them feeling they knew the answer and had been heard, or would they leave and find someone else, not entirely sure you knew what they asked or discussed?

Our Spring 2020 Open Programme starts on 18th February.

The three month peer mentoring programme helps women better manage their internal narratives, successfully navigate personal and professional relationships and lead from a place of confidence.

We would love to have you join us. Apply now or get in touch with Laura if you have any questions.

Inside our Open Programme

Lamese Waterfield, who completed our Open Programme earlier this year, sheds light on some of the areas the programme covers and the results and effects that she is now seeing.

Self Authentic leadership is about having a deep sense of self, knowing your strengths but also your weaknesses. The programme starts the journey of greater self-awareness and purpose, to be able to lead from the heart.  

I now more clearly see the value I bring to my role and projects and I am more confident about injecting my values within my role and organisation. I am speaking up with more courage, clarity, self-belief and ownership.

Other From active listening to deep listening we were given tools and techniques to develop our presence. We practiced the different levels of listening to help deepen interactions in meetings, work, projects and relationships. 

Learning how to fully listen has helped me manage meetings better and develop more impactful relationships at work.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Whole How do we fit into the various systems within which we operate? What’s in our control in the work we do and what role can we play to create change? The programme gave us the opportunity to explore our beliefs and assumptions connected to the systems we operate in and together, we created new possibilities for ourselves, our organisations and our communities.

I have a better sense of when to step in and when not to, a more holistic understanding of all moving parts and where my role sits. Clarity about how I work in the system has helped me start to crack impostor syndrome!

Resilience Resilience is a vital in the workplace and our personal lives. On the three-month journey we explored and unpicked resilience to build clarity on boundaries, accountability and developing your voice. 

I met a former colleague recently and we spoke in-depth about resilience because we both suffered under the same manager. She asked how I felt about that time now and I simply said: “I will never allow anyone to treat me that way again and let it go on for so long but I also take responsibility because I allowed it to happen and that’s something I won’t do again either.”

Vulnerability Allowing yourself to be vulnerable creates space for growth. Brené Brown speaks of vulnerability and leadership – the courage to step up in uncertain times and being fully exposed to the discomfort of possible failure. The programme provides a safe space with like-minded women to explore the power of vulnerability.

Theory U has stuck with me and I use it my personal and professional life – the process of letting go (of our old ego and self) and letting-come (our highest future possibility) was very powerful and I am still working with that inner place of stillness where knowing comes to the surface.

And above all else I met the most inspiring group of women – we are there to support each other, leading change together.

Get in touch if you would like to learn more, or just go ahead and apply here!

Leading Together for Health

Jacqueline Lim, our partnerships lead, on why we need to focus on collective impact for health and wellbeing.

Health and wellbeing have been dominating the headlines. Mental health in the workplace and across wider society, the crisis around air pollution in our cities, and the devastating effects of malnutrition in regions troubled by changing climates and intensive farming are just a few of the issues we face. 

“Good health and wellbeing” is the third of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is ambitious in its goal to: “ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages”.

Achieving SDG 3 requires us to take a connected, systems approach as:

  • Health is both symptom and cause: Many factors – from the air we breathe, the food we eat, our work environments, loneliness, even stress induced by the climate emergency – affect our health. And health in turn affects all spheres of life – our ability to access education, our livelihoods, etc.
  • Health and wellbeing is mutually reinforced across nested systems: From individuals, families, communities, businesses, economies to our biosphere, positive (and negative) actions have a reinforcing ripple effect on other systems. 
  • The potential for connected impact across varied organisations is huge: Health and wellbeing is no longer just the domain of health organisations like the WHO, the NHS, or medical companies on the frontline. Diverse organisations across sectors too are all part of the wider health and wellbeing ecosystem. There is potential for connected impact at the level of employees and others across supply chains, customers and other service users, as well as citizens in both urban and rural settings.

It also requires a collective approach to creating impact. Leaders need to “look above the parapet” of their domain expertise, their department, their organisation – even their industry and sector.  They also need to make sense of complexity from others’ perspectives. They need to imagine new possibilities and co-create an emergent future with others.

As Nesta put it at Nesta Health 2019 – The Future of People Powered Health: Reimagining Leadership:

… It’s time to reimagine leadership in health. With the growing complex challenges we now face in health and care, top-down approaches to leadership are not enough. In fact, they are holding us back. We must be bold and innovative to expand our approach to leadership. We need to champion approaches that empower people to lead during times of uncertainty and to create a shared purpose.We need to embrace leaders from different vantage points, and approaches that bridge organisational boundaries.”

Fundamentally, we need leaders who are able to bring their real, authentic, best selves – able to step up and take responsibility for the change they wish to see – and not be limited by self-imposed barriers. This is at the core of our Open Programme at She Leads Change. 

The Collective Impact Programmebeing, doing, and connecting.

In November 2019, our Collective Impact Programme will launch with the goal of deepening impact in specific thematic areas – health and wellbeing being the first. We will expand the programme focus on the “ways of being” and include the exploration of new “ways of doing”. The programme aims to develop capacities for connected, system-focused and collective leadership.

Participants will be asked to bring on board the programme a personal challenge and a professional challenge – the latter related to the theme of health and wellbeing. Following the 6-month programme, they will leave with an action plan that they can take forward as well as a whole community of other changemakers working alongside them.

An invitation to partner with us

She Leads Change is looking for other partners to join the likes of Pearson and others whose employees will be part of the first cohort of the Collective Impact programme working together and modelling the collective leadership required to create deeper, more sustained impact, in health and wellbeing.

We are also looking for individuals and organisations who would like to support us in this journey. 

If you would like to get involved, in the programme, or have ideas for future impact themes we should work on, let’s have a conversation! Get in touch with Jacqueline Lim.





Our SLC community fairly bursts at the seams with leaders, dreamers, visionaries and pioneers, developing, transforming and leading individuals, teams, businesses and society – all with the heart to creating a positive legacy for our future generations.

One of our current participants has shared a request from Arise – they are looking for ‘ordinary, extraordinary’ speakers – everyday people who are trailblazing change, often quietly and without fanfare and who would not necessarily describe themselves as trailblazers to share at their upcoming conference in London…

Apply here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/AspireTBL2019

Their focus is “on the empowerment of women as leaders and we totally welcome and are inclusive of men as speakers and attendees at this event.”

If you would never normally do this, maybe today is your day! Arise encourage you to step up and join as a speaker – it’s a massive confidence boost and a great experience. We’d love to see some of our SLC community stepping up and into the speaking arena – you lead change every day and your experience will empower others to do the same!