Become A Listener

Most of us have too much noise inside (and outside) of our heads, don’t we?

Listening is a skill and a discipline. Our clients have a lot going on in their businesses, which leads to the challenge of how can we best prepare them for the M&A process?

In the spirit of learning and sharing best practices, I want to share a really cool outcome for my client, Bill of Widget & Co. All names are changed to protect the heroes.

Last fall, Bill described a series of difficult conversations that didn’t go well. It wasn’t the first time the closely-held business had discussed this sticky topic. The lack of resolution resulted in:

  • Tension
  • Impatience
  • Frustration

Bill and the Widget team had their own version of Groundhog’s Day going on. Same topic. Same words. Same outcome. Repeat. There wasn’t any room for understanding or more importantly growth as the team, including his father, tried to face the challenges of future change with the same old approach.

As a coach and advisor, I know that clients get caught in the emotions of the moment.

I asked Bill if he was ready to achieve new outcomes with a new tool. This tool, SBNRR or the SiBerian North RailRoad, creates the space to let new ideas and choices into the discussion. The catch phrase is corny, but thanks to Chade Meng Tan, it is easier to remember the steps. The initials stand for:

  • Stop
  • Breathe
  • Notice
  • Reflect
  • Respond

Bill took approximately 20 minutes to learn the tool, absorb it, and begin to work with it. After the first couple of weeks of conscious practice, he described the internal change (hope and curiosity), which produced an external appearance of being open to learning more about differing perspectives. Bill’s team quickly asked “What’s up?” and “Where’s Bill?”. His father noticed the change in Bill and the team’s collaborations. After a few weeks, it was the perfect opening to share the tool for everyone to use.

Currently, Bill feels more equipped to listen to others around the table. Really listen- not formulate an answer while the other person is talking. As a leader and partner, Bill feels able to engage, do the SBNRR, and THEN respond. He knows the new dynamic has impacted management and customer relationships. His Dad has implemented the technique as well. The shift in leadership style has created a space for innovative conversation, collaborative brainstorming and faster resolution for everyone.

As always, if you are challenged by this process and want the support of a coach while you work, contact me. (804) 372-7575 or

Wendy Dickinson

About the Author

Wendy Dickinson is the founder of Ascend Coaching Solutions LLC, a coaching firm that specializes in working with business owners and executives who plan to expand their leadership capacity as their business grows.

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