Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.Alan Alda
B. Paul Tshuma is a published poet, musician, conductor and public speaker and now, a Sync Canada Alumni. Paul shares how Sync Coaching changed his thinking and his practice and shifted his focus onto the people he works with.
As a former Choir Director of United Tribulation Choir, I had a clear vision of how I would want a piece of music to be shaped and sung. As a motivational speaker or accessibility consultant, I similarly wanted to inspire people to make changes in their thinking and practice by sharing my story.
I used to be of the opinion that leadership needed patience, and that for people to change or improve they needed to practice. As part of Sync Leadership, a focus on coaching threw a different light onto how I might view the people I work with in music, motivation and consultancy. I could see how I tried to bring people round to my way of thinking and doing for a fairer more representative, accessible world.
Imposing my view of how things should be in the world, particularly an artistic vision or adjusting mindsets or architectural design for a fairer society, is one way. But it is very much about my story, what I want to see happen, linked to my values, passions and purpose.
Having spoken many times on a motivational podium and having listened to different speakers, I wondered what impact was I having? We often forget that the people sitting right in front of us may need more in order to make change.
Through Sync Coaching 1:1s and in the wider group, I shifted my perspective. In particular, through the practice of active listening and letting go of my story, I realised that people need to find their own solutions in response to what I am sharing. This was the way that people would be more actively engaged and therefore more motivated to change.
To do this, they needed to find their own story within a shared performance or piece of collaborative work or public address to enable more change to happen for themselves and for others.
Sync Coaching changed my approach to being a better leader, helping me to know myself better through practicing active listening, and asking, or allowing others to ask me, questions. Dialogue with the groups and teams I work with had to shift from me being the one who knows how it needs to be, to trusting that others have their own solutions. Using skillful questioning is an important part of my work moving forward, leading to pooling solutions to make for better outcomes.
My goal now is to think about the different messages that I want to convey through music, writing and speaking engagements, and to get curious about people’s relationship to the content through posing questions. Leadership, I understand now, is about being curious about the other: to know more about my audiences, their experiences, their cultural references and what their stories are, and understanding that what I give to them is a chance to rewrite their own stories in relation to mine.
This feels like a completely different approach and one that is exciting. I am motivated to explore this further and am looking into coach training to develop my skills further so I can listen more deeply to people across everything I do.
When all is said and done, my prayer is that I leave those I work with – musicians, architects or audiences – with something that will allow them to create their own stories in response to my own, allowing them to pursue their own God-given journeys to success. As for me, I’m going to work with poetry to continue questioning whatever I can in the world around me.