Nuggets From David VanderMolen's Call

Posted by Aryae Coopersmith on Apr 12, 2021
Last Saturday, we had the privilege of hosting Awakin Call with David VanderMolen.

David VanderMolen is the Learning Sensei of a multi-billion dollar global manufacturing company that has transformed its corporate purpose into a vision of "Truly Human Leadership" -- where the company's people and employees are viewed as the company's primary "product". In an "aha" moment, David's own vision of leader as problem solver and high-wattage motivator transformed into one of leader as deep listener and enabler for others to solve their own problems. Mastering the skill of deep, reflective listening, he became the Primary Architect of a communication skills program, a three-day immersive learning experience, that has inspired change in the lives of 10,000+ world-wide. He has equipped nearly 300 Certified Trainers to facilitate courses in five languages globally. David brings a contagious passion for learning, listening and leading -- catalyzing corporate leaders to rethink their primary purpose.

Below are some of the nuggets from the call that stood out for me ...
  • The Listen Like a Leader program started with my fulfilling a contract obligation with Barry-Wehmiller Companies. And then it spread like grass fire.
  • It has the effect of changing lives.
  • I believe that listening, not just superficially the way most of us tend to do, but really, deeply listening, is the greatest gift we can give to another person.
  • I can actually teach someone about the essential skills of listening in five minutes. But for them to actually put it into practice and listen -- that's a whole different story.
  • Listen Like a Leader has power because of the design. Stringing things together to create a learning experience sets it apart.
  • The effect is to move and migrate people’s perspectives of learning.
  • So the program is designed to create intentional disruption and upheaval. We train our facilitators to bring about this disruption.
  • We don’t teach people what to do. We provide the environment for them to discover for themselves.
  • That which is in you, comes out of you.
  • What we do is deeply rooted in ancient wisdom, but it also depends on the modern. It’s like an old house that has been completely gutted and refurbished.
  • It’s a mix of holding onto ancient thoughts, combined with the science of understanding how people function.
  • One thing we need to learn is how to audit our own communications.
  • Communication is not just words, not just exchanging information. It’s about connecting. It’s about having the experience that I know you, and you know me, in this moment.
  • I say to people, “Listening is probably not what you think it is. you’re probably terrible at it.”
  • We give people the assignment during the workshop of going home that evening and really listening to someone in their family or among their close friends. One time a man came back the next day and said, , “You know, I’ve been married to my wife for 40 years, and I think this is the first time I’ve really listened to her!”
  • Another guy, a really hard-ass macho type, told us, “I went home and I listened to my little girls. I said, ‘I’m sorry i haven’t listened well to you.’ They said, ’It’s okay Daddy, you didn’t know any better.’” He sat there in the group, this hard-ass guy, and he cried.
  • Listening is the most helpful skill we can have for working and living with other people. And the most helpful thing a person can do for someone else is to listen.
  • The key to listening is simple: close the mouth and quiet the mind. Erase the whiteboard of your own opinions and thoughts.
  • Listening is not about asking questions. Your questions can limit the other person. Listening is about holding space for empathy.
  • Instead of asking someone specific questions, try just being present while they speak. And asking a wide-open question, something like, "Tell me more."
  • "I'm ADHD and in terms of behavioral tendencies, I have very little reason to listen to somebody else -- it's all about me telling you what i'm thinking. I also have a strong need to push an agenda -- it's in me -- so there's not much about me that says, I can listen. But I've worked really hard at the craft."
  • What’s the best way to listen to someone I find challenging, or disagreeable? "I can’t listen to myself and them at the same time. So first I have to stop listening to myself, to make my mind a blank. Then I can give my full attention to them."
  • Deep, effective listening is in essence deep soul work, drawing on ancient wisdom practices highlighted by all traditions.
  • A new model of leadership: "I ride motorcycles and I love my Harley and on occasion I’ve had the opportunity of being a road captain. That means my responsibility is to lead a line of bikers safely to the destination. How I ride when it's just me and how I ride when I’m with the group is night and day, especially if I’m leading because now I must care for those who are behind me. I slow my decision making down, my moves become more deliberate, I have to think long range -- it's all about them, not me. And I’ve been with road captains before where there up front, they're listening to music, they're doing this on their bike, and I’m in the back going, “Dude, you’re scaring me. Stop it.” And I wonder sometimes, there are a lot of people in leadership who are leading as if they're the grounding dog, or they're the solo biker -- kind of out there, stretching the road out. That's not leadership. … It's a tragedy, the perception of people is that leadership is expression of power. It's not. It's false front-man leadership of exercising strength."
  • Span of care v. span of control: "how I lead how I speak describes what's happening inside of me. If I were to start talking about the people in my span of control, that's one thing. But if I said 'so, these are the people in my span of care,' I've just sent a completely different message with shifting one word." People most of the time are thinking of command and control, not bringing presence and voice and care to people.
  • Power of pause and reflect: "If there's a practice that I keep top of mind is I repetitively exercise the power to pause and reflect -- and, by the way, anytime I'm not pausing to reflect to respond I'm usually creating some kind of mess somewhere."
  • Hard work of listening: "Rarely do people choose to listen, because it is incredibly hard work, no question about it. So there's 1000 other things you can do that are really easy and effective in some ways, so why bother doing the hard work of listening?"
  • Listening as helping another touch the Divine: "Not to sound so esoteric but it's true -- if I really listened to you and you feel me really listening to you, you're having that experience. Something happens that's dynamic. In some ways, I think people touch the Divine, and I say this from the perspective of no matter where you sit in terms of like your spiritual framework. We all have a perception of maybe a higher being .... And if I come to you [listening] that way you can actually kind of reach out and touch, you can get a glimpse or a glimmer of, what the Divine is like."
  • Being a catalyst for change: "I want to find a way to help the world to listen and to lead in ways that make sense. So any effort to that end works for me. I want more people, I want more moms and dads to go home to be better parents to their children because they know how to actually listen to them. I want more leaders to stop doing what their supervisor or the model that they saw is doing, and stop doing that way of leading that's counterintuitive to really helping people -- and to step into authentic leadership that is about the care and feeding of those in your span of care."
Lots of gratitude to Preeta, to our guest David VanderMolen, and to all the behind-the-scenes volunteers that made this call happen!


Posted by Aryae Coopersmith | | permalink

Share A Comment

 Your Name: Email:

Smiles From 4 Members Login to Add a Smile