The power of listening...

Listening is an activity that requires inactivity. To listen effectively we have to turn off the crazy chatter inside our heads – our preconceptions, the preparation of our interjections – and be quiet.

What?! We have so much to think about within our leadership roles, how on earth do we quieten those thoughts? It’s not easy but I’m really trying to practice.

Most of us realise that getting onto the hamster wheel of routine is necessary to get things done. Processes are vital to seamless and successful execution. But that hamster can be a crazy gal. When she eventually collapses off the wheel, she realises that she’s only done more of what she did last week, last month, last year. Giving ourselves space and peace to listen can expand our lungs, our mind and our vision.

If you’re still reading this (well done!) and I’ve convinced you that taking a step back to listen is vital to our all-round success, you may be wonder to whom exactly you should listen. Here are my top three recommendations:


Listening to yourself is different from thinking. I think constantly and it often leads to tension in my shoulders, stomach cramps and interrupted sleep. For me, listening involves a combination of meditation and journalling. These activities are often shelved in preference of social media, coffee and work but when the above stated effects of thinking get too much, I remember the value of creating space to take a step back and listen in the quiet to my own wisdom. It was during a time of extended listening that the initial concept of Colour Elements was created. It’s gone through much iteration since those early days but none of those could have occurred without the initial opportunity to sit and listen. And the business progress would never have occurred without listening to the second group of people I’ve learned to listen to:


Initially I thought of listening to customers as talking at them – telling them about what I’d created, why it would be beneficial to them and then watching their reaction. As a result, I wasted a lot of time and money. To be honest, I still make the mistake of not listening enough. So often I wake up to the recognition of a new development required within my business, only to realise that my customers have been telling me this for months Listening to customers can happen verbally, through interactions at pop-ups, messaging on our app, chatting on social media and non-verbally through analytics, but there’s also the important step of sitting back and working out what customers were actually saying. Giving myself space to consider the bigger picture can be more of a challenge but it often happens as a result of listening to the third group:


There are SO MANY experts! I feel that, as person with no business training or experience, I wasted years working out that there are a lot of well-meaning people with some knowledge but there are very few experts. Time is finite, there are no ways to stretch it. Time spent away from people we love doesn’t come back to us, so carefully choosing which experts we listen to is important but also difficult. However, I’m learning to get more picky! I now value my own time much more. Going to that event will mean that I have to do this work at another time or that I’ll have to take the time away from time I’ve allocated to be with people I love.

When I do meet genuine experts, I ask them which experts they listen to and download their books. I listen to the stories of leaders of successful businesses and learn from their failures and successes.

It has taken me three years to learn the value of listening but I’m excited to take Colour Elements in 2018 and my new year’s resolution? Shut up and listen.



SHOE DOG by Phil Knight

THE POWER OF HABIT by Charles Duhigg

Karen Finlayson is the founder of Colour Elements

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