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  • Writer's pictureAndy Goram

Communicating On A Global Stage

The world is now a much smaller place, thanks largely to technology. The person you sit next to at work, virtually, is less likely to come from the same town as you, have the same accent as you, or have the same cultural customs as you than ever before. If you struggled to communicate before, imagine what it's like now!

In this episode of the popular employee engagement, workplace culture and leadership podcast, Sticky From The Inside, your host, Andy Goram, talks to global communication expert, Heather Hansen.

In this fun and lively conversation, Heather shares her insights on how to be a more effective global communicator and how you as a leader can unmute your whole team and get everyone to show up, stand up and speak up.

Below is a transcript of the whole conversation, or you can listen to it here.

Two people discussing how to becomes a more effective global communicator
Heather Hansen (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss how to be a more effective global communicator

00:00:10 Andy Goram

Hello, and welcome to sticky from the inside. The Employee Engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier competition-smashing, consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host Andy Goram and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn their lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them and create tons more success for everyone.

This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses, the sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it.

So, if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.

00:01:10 Andy Goram

OK then, language is a wonderful thing.

The words we use, the way you put them across, the meaning and energy behind them, and the way others interpret all those nuances as we try to communicate is a fascinating topic, but perhaps one we take for granted. Especially when you think about the role communication plays in engagement and how many organizations employees would cite communication as a thing that needs most improvement.

Now, the message promoted by this podcast, I hope, is one of understanding, connection, encouragement and enthusiasm for this drive to bring more humanity into the workplace. And how we talk to each other is a big part of how we bring that to life every day.

Today's world is smaller. Now by that I mean we are connected to each other via technology more than we have ever been before. Our colleagues and audiences are more global than before, too, which brings its own linguistic and communications challenges and complications with it. If you found it hard enough to make yourself understood and understand someone you previously sat next to, who came from the same town you did, and spoke with the same language, with the same local dialect, imagine what it's like now, being part of a bigger global workforce with multiple languages and cultures at play. It makes for a really interesting world.

And brilliantly with me today is Heather Hansen, Founder of the Global Speech Academy, where she helps top global leaders show up, speak up and inspire action in this changing world. Back in May 2018, she recorded her popular TEDx talk “2 billion voices. How to speak bad English perfectly” and is now the author of “Unmuted”. Which is a must-read guide to enhancing your communication and coping with the challenges that we face today.

So I'm delighted she's taken some time out of her busy schedule to take a look at the complexity we're dealing with today, and hopefully breaking down the solutions to being an effective, inspiring global communicator.

Welcome to the show, Heather!

00:03:21 Heather Hansen

Thank you so much, Andy. What an amazing introduction. So happy to be here.

00:03:26 Andy Goram

It's fantastic to have you here and we're doing the topic of language today and what that can do for, for business and for people in this global world. And language is going to be something I usually struggle with on the podcast. Which is a weird thing to say for a podcast host. I'll trip over my words. I'll use the wrong stuff, but we're going to get through all that stuff today. I'm really looking forward to it.

00:03:48 Heather Hansen

Of course we are, of course we are. But it's a great point, right? Someone as experienced as you, who's doing this regularly. We all stumble, we all trip and fall, and that's OK. It doesn't have to be perfect and I'm sure that will come up many times throughout our conversation.

00:04:04 Andy Goram

Well, I'm bound to be a great example of that for you today, so that's good.

I gave you a little bit of an introduction, Heather, but could you do me a favour? Could you tell my audience just a little bit more about you, what you're up to and what's taking your attention right now?

00:04:19 Heather Hansen

Umm, sure, thanks. I'm originally from California, born and raised if people are trying to place the accent. But I've actually lived out of the US for the last 20 years, and I've spent eight of those years in Denmark. My husband is Danish and 12 of the years here in Singapore, and we've gone back and forth a couple of times. So raising two third culture kids here. So not only is the language I study very global, but my life is very global, in how I'm communicating, even within my family, as well as for my work.

So I started my company here in Singapore in 2007. So I've had this training firm for 15 years now and we're working with top multinational companies, really to help at this stage, really unmute their leaders, unmute their people and create an unmuted communication culture in the workplace, so that people are standing up, speaking up, sharing their ideas. So we can create more innovation, greater efficiency and more inclusion in the workplace, which I think are all things that we're really valuing right now as we move forward.

00:05:23 Andy Goram

And when you say “unmuted”, what do you mean? You've talked about diversity, inclusion, standing up. Is it all of those things? Is there a specific thing that you're trying to get to with this unmuted message?

00:05:35 Heather Hansen

It's really about standing up for what you believe in. Showing up authentically. Being able to have the confidence to speak up and share your ideas and your brilliance with the world. Because one of the main reasons I wrote the book was, I was so tired of listening to the same voices and the same ideas and the same leadership principles, when our world has been changing like crazy, at a pace we've never seen before. And I thought,

There's got to be more. Right?

Look around us, our world’s a mess. There's got to be better ideas, where the people with the good ideas like stand up. “You there in the back, stand up, unmute and tell us what you're thinking.” Because there has to be a better way. And either we... those people are not speaking up, or we are choosing not to listen to them. And I think it could be a combination of both of those factors.

So I'm really trying to inspire more global voices. People that we don't typically hear from. Because they must have some ideas that we haven't heard yet. And that's what I hope that, you know, the book inspires people to do. And that's really what's driving the work I'm doing right now.

00:06:37 Andy Goram

I love that. And that's why you're such a great fit for this podcast. It's all blending beautifully.

Now, I mentioned complications. Challenges with communication. As an expert on this issue, what do you see? What are the common areas? And perhaps what would some of the outliers that communication causes problems with, for businesses and for the employees within them.

00:07:02 Heather Hansen

Right, I don't think you even have to be an expert to know what those are, because we, you know, we all kind of know all the problems we can have, you know. Certain people dominating the meetings, every single meeting, and they have no self-awareness and they're talking over people, interrupting. People won't listen, and especially if they're in a leadership role. How do you stop that from happening? That's very difficult, you know? Other challenges regarding moving online during the pandemic. All of us moving into our little zoom boxes and trying to learn how to take turns in the online space. How to unmute and mute and fix our backgrounds and virtual backgrounds. I mean that just brought a whole new host of issues of understanding and misunderstanding...

00:07:46 Andy Goram

All of a sudden, everybody had massive libraries of books behind them, by the way, “look at all the clever books I've read.”

00:07:52 Heather Hansen

Just like me! No one can see me right now, but that's just like me. Andy’s saying that on purpose because I have two huge bookshelves behind me.

00:07:59 Andy Goram


00:08:02 Heather Hansen

I've two more on the other wall too, Andy. And you're right! Probably 80% of them I haven't read. But I do enjoy looking at them. That's so true. It's so true.

And so I mean this is just the beginning, right? I mean, we all know that it's really difficult. And then add in, as you so rightfully said in the introduction, you know, all the cultures, all the languages. Our world is global now. Even if you're sitting in my hometown in California, in your living room you never leave. The world is coming to you. And you have to be prepared for that. And that's a brand-new experience for a lot of people who maybe have never had a colleague in another country, or a customer in another country, or had to deal with cross-cultural differences. And that is the norm now. It's the norm.

So there's a lot of new learning happening. And then, throw on top the great resignation, great reawakening, whatever you want to call it, and people leaving, people expecting new things from their leaders, people wanting to see passion and purpose. And now we do need to speak up and share and be more vulnerable. And that's really hard for some people, especially certain kinds of leaders. So, yeah, the world is changing, the communication changes with it. And we need more of those voices speaking out to support that.

00:09:16 Andy Goram

Can I just go back to something you mentioned at the start? And you've just mentioned again there, and I think this is what ties in with that, I guess, global, cultural challenge that we face. And you've mentioned “perfection.” Or it doesn't have to be perfect at all the time. And I guess this is a key theme, when we're coming to a workplace where we’re dealing with different cultures and different languages and what have you, and this almost, I guess, inhibitor, of like

I can't speak the language” or, “I don't speak the language very well, therefore I'm going to kind of shut down and won't engage

I mean is this something that you see? And how do you tackle that?

00:09:49 Heather Hansen

Yeah, yeah. You know, this was really the point of my TEDx back in 18, was this idea of how we tend to look down upon people based on how they are speaking, the language they use, the way they speak, the accent they have, is sometimes being valued more than the message that they're trying to get across. And if we're distracted by that, we often shut down. We aren't listening, we aren't paying attention, or we aren't valuing their input in the same way we would someone who is eloquent with the posh accent and the right education. Well, guess what? That person speaking broken English probably has a very, very high education. And you know, they've lived in different parts of the world. And their English could be different, but you're probably still understanding. And we really do have to focus on making the connection with people; connecting on a human level in our communication, and not always expecting this subjective standard of what we think is perfect. Because what's perfect to you is very different than what's perfect for me.

With an American background, I mean even you and I are going to have extremely different views on what sounds good, what sounds uneducated. Half of the accents around the UK, I couldn't even recognise what they mean. But they would mean something very specific to you. So it's really, really interesting when we dig into that subject.

But the moral of the story is connection and not perfection. That we need to we need to be connecting with people, and it doesn't have to be the perfect grammar or the perfect vocabulary. You can flop around and mess up your words and blank on something. It's all OK, as long as we have the connection.

00:11:31 Andy Goram

I think that is so good. I mean, I think... Look, as an ex-marketer, you know I learned pretty quickly that if you can't find an emotional connection with your audience, you're never going to get to do anything, right?

00:11:43 Heather Hansen

Exactly right.

00:11:43 Andy Goram

So, so all the rational stuff is great, but emotions, connections, that's what gets people to do stuff, right?That's what gets through to people. And you talk about accents. My accent is a mess, right. I mean, I lived in California for 13-14 months ...

00:11:59 Heather Hansen

Oh, did you?

00:12:02 Andy Goram

...back in the day. Yep, lived in Monterey for a year, did my service training out in Pebble Beach, all that kind of stuff.

This is a story about Accent, right? So I was checking a guest into the hotel one day and I looked at the Reg. Card and their address was like a road across, like a block across from me, back home in England.

00:12:22 Heather Hansen

Oh! You’re kidding.?”

00:12:23 Andy Goram

Now, I'm like, I must... I have to show these people to their room. when I. I picked the key up, took him to the room, gave him the spiel, walked into the room and as we entered the room and I sort of put the fireplace on, got the ice, all that kind of stuff, they said,

Andy, whereabouts in Australia are you from?” And I was like, “No, I am English! And I live a road across from you!

But in the sort of 6-months, I've been there...

00:12:45 Heather Hansen

That is so funny.

00:12:50 Andy Goram

Yeah, I had picked up this weird kind of English/Californian twang. Came back to University.

00:12:55 Heather Hansen

That’s hilarious!

00:12:56 Andy Goram

No one knew what I was saying. It was mad.

00:12:57 Heather Hansen

How funny.

00:12:57 Andy Goram

So I get that stuff. I mean accents, all that stuff can be really interesting, right?

00:13:05 Heather Hansen

But most important, Andy, did it improve your dating life when you were in California that you had that British accent?

00:13:10 Andy Goram

Do you know what? I am rubbish at that sort of stuff. I mean, literally rubbish. I tried to posh-up my English accent. I tried to do all sorts of things to be a hit with the ladies, and it yeah, it didn't really work, mate. Didn't really work.

00:13:25 Heather Hansen

Uh, too bad.

00:13:26 Andy Goram

Played a lot of basketball, though. That was great.

00:13:27 Heather Hansen

I've heard, yeah, you know, I've heard. I've been out of the states now 20 years, but I mean, I've heard that now those accents are really in, you know? The ladies really dig a British accent, apparently.

00:13:37 Andy Goram

Yeah, I think, where I failed... I think the accent was great. I mean, it's probably the looks that kind of put them off, which is fine. I mean, we can cope with that? That's fine. I played a lot of Basketball, had a great time. It was brilliant. So, no, that's a weird kind of like deflected conversation about accents, but yeah I empathise.

00:13:55 Heather Hansen

Yeah, a nice little tangent.

00:13:56 Andy Goram

I get it.

So, in the book unmuted, right, you talk about having a particular approach to getting more effective, better communication. And can you maybe give us a heads up to what those key takeouts would be from that approach, sort of breaking it down and just explaining it for us?

00:14:21 Heather Hansen

Sure. Yeah, so the UNMUTED framework consists of three different parts of our communication. And I developed this the out of frustration, really, as a corporate Trainer going in and ticking boxes.

This person needs presentation skills. This person needs e-mail writing skills.” And really, it's so much bigger than that.

I can dump all the presentation skills in the world on you, but if you're in a toxic environment with a boss who sits there grumbling through your entire presentation, it doesn't matter what I teach you, right? You're still not going to feel confident, or feel like you're successful.

So, what we look at in the UNMUTED framework is how to be conscious, confident and connected. And if you think of those three parts as a Venn diagram, then when that overlap of being conscious, confident and connected, that's where we're able to best unmute. But the overlapping areas create some problems, right?

Venn diagram of Conscious, Connected and Confident Communication
The "Unmuted" Communication Framework

If you're confident and connected, but not conscious, no self-awareness, no cultural intelligence, nothing, then you're typically too loud. You're dominating. You aren't paying attention to your environment. You don't realise that people aren't paying attention to you.

And then when you look at the confident and conscious, but not connected, there's a toxic environment there. Those people are normally on mute because they don't feel comfortable to speak up. They don't have the connections and the relationships in the workplace.

And then that final bit, if you're lacking confidence, but you're very conscious and connected, then a lot of times those people are too soft. They just aren't pressing unmute enough. They aren't turning up their volume and speaking up because the confidence is holding them back.

So, it's only when we have these three different pieces and we put them all together, that we find people really unmuting, taking a stand, speaking up, sharing their ideas and views. Because they feel all three of those pieces.

So that's the quick overview.

00:16:10 Andy Goram

And that whole self-awareness, I guess, context behind the scenes... Look as somebody who's qualified in Lumina Spark, which is a personality trait assessment tool, right, which I love, and it gives beautiful, rich insights into your own personality preferences and traits, how others perceive you. All that kind of good stuff, but these things always come back to communication. And then from your experience... I don’t even know if this is even a real sort of question, but how often does the self-awareness thing cause problems with communication? People really not understanding how they come across, or how they dominate, or how they seem to criticise with their face when they're reading something, you know?

00:16:58 Heather Hansen

Yeah, you know, I don't have a number on that, but I would expect that is a really, really large problem. Even things as simple as what you just said. Not realising the expression on your face as someone is speaking to you.

I mean, just with my husband, I get into arguments with him all the time because his communication style... he is not very emotive. And I am. I mean again, listeners can't hear me right now, but I my arms go everywhere, my face makes lots of faces, forget it. When I give a keynote and people tried to take pictures of me, there is not a single picture, that ever turns out. My face is always in some random thing.

But I can sit having a conversation with my husband and he just stares at me, blankly, for the entire story. To the point that there are times when I'm like, “Are you with me? Are you listening? Are you here?”, you know.

And he said, “Yeah. Yeah, of course. Yeah. What?” And his style, simply, is that he sits and he listens and he's fully present, but he gives nothing away on his face. Not a nod, not a smile, not an eyebrow raised. Nothing! And for someone like me, that is very unnerving. And so being aware of those differences. He being aware of it when he's communicating with his team, for example, but also, you know, me being aware that not everyone is going to be as emotive as I am. And that's OK too. And I can't hold that against them. I mean, I married him anyway, right? But again, I can't. I can't... First of all, I can't take it personally that,

“Oh, he's not interested. You know, my boss, he's never engaged. He hates everything I'm saying.”

He could actually be sitting there very, very engaged and understanding and someone like my husband. He sits at dinner parties and it seems like he's not even in the room, but he is taking in everything going on around him.

So, there are very different types of communication, different styles of communication. Knowing what your preferences are, as well as understanding the differences that you might find out in the world are going to help you a lot in better connecting. And that's why I start the book with that, “Who are you?” Getting that self-awareness. What are your values? What do you stand for? How are you showing up in the World? And of course, that ties very closely to your communication style as well.

00:19:09 Andy Goram

I think that's a great message and something that's often really overlooked as some nice, fluffy stuff to kind of do. But I love the point you make about trying to understand the audience. And I mean, when you're stood up doing a big kind of keynote, a Ted X, you don't have time to go and profile everybody, right.

00:19:26 Heather Hansen

No, unfortunately.

00:19:30 Andy Goram

You gotta be yourself. I know as a needy individual, whenever I'm facilitating in small groups, I had to learn pretty quickly, as a guy who's pretty demonstrative, and pretty energetic about stuff, when I would... when I'd be trying to make, or drop a point and I'm looking at the group in front of me, and I'm not getting maybe tonnes back from everybody, I start to panic. Like,

Oh my God! I'm an idiot. I’m not getting this stuff across.”

But you're right, people are sitting there, reflecting. Thinking about it, rather than just immediately emote like I would, perhaps do.

00:20:04 Heather Hansen

And that was huge learning when I came to Asia, as well. Because audiences around the world are very different.

00:20:07 Andy Goram

Oh, so tell me about that.

00:20:07 Heather Hansen

And when we get the big American speakers, who come in and they in front of the big crowd... and you cannot expect an Asian audience, and I mean that's very generalised. A Singapore audience even, you know, to be that responsive. That's just not their way. You're going to have to really pull it out of them. And in smaller groups, you have to pull it out of them. You might need to ask people to contribute. You have to demonstrate. You need to get them involved. It's a completely different mindset, you know, versus when I've spoken in the Middle East. They're also very different, and they tend to be a little bit more responsive than out here in Singapore. But again, in a different way. And there's different conventions and things you have to think about when presenting to those audiences. Versus Europe, where my American style could be too over the top and oh so-American and she smiles too much, and I could get all that kind of thing. So I have to tone it down a bit.

And then, you know, in the US, that's where I can just let it fly. Because whatever comes out of me naturally, it's typically well received. But you have to just be aware of those differences. And they're huge. They're huge. And then now that we're bringing all those differences into one working team, how do you manage that right? And how are you aware? How do you stay aware? And a lot of these things we never learn unless you've been spending, you know, 20 years abroad and living all over the world. But there aren't a lot. There's a good number of us, but there's not a lot of us doing that and learning it through experience. And so, we do need to learn how to be culturally intelligent in that sense.

00:21:44 Andy Goram

I think that's so insightful. I do remember that when I was in the gaming industry, you know, we ended up working with a whole bunch of Israeli guys, who were incredibly brilliant tech people, but for a soft, English flower like myself, having guys kind of shout at me and be incredibly forceful and direct was a real shock, right? And they weren't angry with me. That's just the way that they approached the conversation. But it was a real shock, and I wasn't prepared for it, and I didn't react well. It took me a long time to get my head around those sort of things. And this is the sort stuff we're talking about, those cultural nuances and differences. With those Asian groups that you speak of, is that driven by a respectful culture do you think, behind the scenes that they'll listen, listen until they're introduced? Or is it is it something else? What? I'm interested, really.

00:22:40 Heather Hansen

I think that yeah, there's a lot to it, you know? Part of it is... and if I look just at Singapore, because I don't really like when we say Asia. Because I mean Thailand's totally different from Malaysia versus, you know. But looking here at Singapore and what I know best, living here so many years, I think it already starts in education. Which is a very much speak when you're asked type of education, you know. You sit, you listen to your teacher, you don't speak up, you don't talk back and you aren't given a lot of opportunities for speaking. And so that already creates a mentality of

No, I listen to the leader. I don't necessarily question or speak up or interrupt, I would never do that. That's disrespectful.”

So, it is very much respect driven.

And then there is a lot more hierarchy in the organisations. There's a lot more showing respect. I would say Japan would be even more intense in this direction. It's very, very difficult to... even if you think you have the most psychologically safe culture in the world and you've told them a million times like, “Please, please just tell me. Just tell me.” They very rarely will speak openly and honestly depending on the hierarchy and where you're placed within that, in ages and gender and so many different things play in. So yeah, it it's just being aware of that so that you know how to approach people differently, that you don't expect.

So, for example, one client I work with, has a team in Japan, and what she started doing to help them to be more engaging in the meetings is, she sends out the agenda beforehand and then she tells them very specifically beforehand, “I really would like for you to speak during this part of the meeting. I'm planned to ask you to say something about what you're doing on the project in this particular instance.” And she lets them have that time to prepare, so that they aren't put on the spot and then they're expecting to be called on and they can feel more confident to speak up. And that's what she started doing with her Japanese team in order to get them, yeah, just more engaged and contributing in the meetings. Because what was happening was, they'd have the big meeting, she’d say, you know, “Any questions? Anybody have anything they want to say?” Nothing, nothing, nothing. 5 minutes later, her inbox would be full of all the people who are in the meeting, writing to her independently, saying, “Actually, I want to tell you this and that.” And it's like,

Why didn't you tell me this in the meeting?”

So then she has to have another meeting to discuss all the notes that were sent to her after the meeting. So it's trying to find the way to balance these things. And we have to be creative and we have to understand where it's coming from.

00:25:14 Andy Goram

And that's what I wanted to ask you, because this is to me... This is fascinating and we will literally scratch the surface of it today, I'm sure. But you cannot know everything about every single culture, as experienced as you are. So, what do you try and concentrate on helping clients? I mean is it the awareness, the openness, the understanding pieces? Is this the sort of message that you're really trying to get that comes through in Unmuted? Or are there more specifics that you try and drill into to help them be more effective global communicators?

00:25:45 Heather Hansen

Well, I think everything is going to start with curiosity. So when you're going into a new space, or a new group of people, or a new culture, you have to be curious and you have to listen, and you have to make space for other people. So don't go in assuming that you have the answers and that you're just going to deliver this. You need to make space for others and spend less time talking, more time listening, observing your surroundings. I think that's really how you learn to be culturally intelligent, is that when you enter new groups or new spaces, you don't even have to be in a foreign country, this could be a new friends group. It could be the Parents Association at your kids’ school. It could be a sports team. There is a culture in each of those places that you are not aware of yet. There's a hierarchy and the people who are there. There's the Queen Bee. There’s going to be very specific cultures. And there are certain topics they talk about, certain topics they don't. Certain ways that you talk about things. And when you're the newcomer, you really need to be curious. Ask a lot of questions. Observe. See who's dominating, who doesn't speak up so much. What's the involvement of all the people? What's the politics at play? And you're a little bit of a sleuth there in the beginning, trying to just decode what's happening. And a lot of us, we just do this subconsciously. We decode. We're doing this normally, but bring it to your conscious level and really think about it and acknowledge what's happening. And that's the first step, I think.

So, it's really about curiosity. Having a curious mindset and coming in and mentoring how to be adaptable, right? So you, we all want to be ourselves when we go into these situations, but we need to know how to be flexible as well.

We can't just go in and say, “Well, this is me. I'm being authentic and you just have to put up with me.” It isn't about that.

We have to be flexible and adaptable in our dealings with others as well.

00:27:37 Andy Goram

I think that is so true. And you know we mentioned sort of personality traits. I mean, I recently read for a bit of fun on holiday, I read that book “Surrounded By Idiots.” I don't know if you've read that?

00:27:49 Heather Hansen

Yeah. I Know that book, yeah.

00:27:50 Andy Goram

I mean it's a pretty entry-level kind of introduction to the four colour types. And the danger of all that stuff, at that high-level, is people run around going,

I'm a red. Deal with it.” or “I'm a yellow. Don't bother giving me any of the detail, love. I'm in the sky thinking imaginative things. That's what I do.” And the reality is of life is we're a rainbow of this stuff, right?

And you have to adapt, and you have to be flexible.

A lot of problems happen when people are rigid and they don't flex and they can't adapt to those situations. And I think it's exactly what you're saying, right?

00:28:25 Heather Hansen

Yeah, it's exactly that. It's exactly that. Just because, you know, you're the dominant D, the red, the... whichever profile you want to use, it doesn't mean you can walk in and just trample all over everybody and say, “But this is me, you know, I'm being authentic. You have to accept me as I am.” We don't do these profiles in order to let people become more rigid. We're doing it so that you can better understand your strengths and weaknesses and where you need to adapt to better relate to others. That's the point of it.

So that's why I also talk about this concept of authentic adaptability. Where as long as you are staying true to your values, your behaviour should be able to adapt. You can change your communication style quite easily to be more polite and respectful of others, right? So that's really important.

00:29:17 Andy Goram

Yeah, I mean, there's a big difference between being yourself and doing those things you've talked about, and being completely inflexible to any other situation and not adapting.

Just picking up on what you said before, and we've... it's been mentioned a couple of times today and maybe links to Unmuted, most likely, the importance of listening, right, in communication. Because everybody... well, not everyone, but lots of people when they think about communication think, “What I'm going to say? How am I going to say it? What’s my body language like? Is my information correct? Am I projecting?” All that kind of stuff. But shutting up is just as important, right?

00:29:53 Heather Hansen

Uh, yeah. And we also always think that when communication goes wrong, that it's usually the fault of the speaker. That's why we're so concerned with, “How do I say it? How do I do it? Oh well, the speaker was just bad”, right? “It wasn't clear. I don't know what they were talking about. I don't care. It wasn't interesting and I don't have any responsibility to actually make an effort to listen or understand.”

We always put a lot of pressure on that speaker. And so Unmuted, it sounds like it's all about, you know, pressing unmute and speaking up in the world and talk, talk, talk. And to a degree it is. But another very important element is knowing when to press mute. When to stop, when to give space to others, when to really listen and be curious.

And that's also part of this conscious communication piece, of recognising when you're following and falling into those listening traps, right? Where you're listening to judge. You're listening to finish their sentence. You're listening to give a solution. You're listening to respond, instead of listening to just understand them and be curious and get more information and dig deeper. Because that's where the magic happens. So we have to know when to listen and mute. Press mute, and give space to other people as well.

00:31:06 Andy Goram

And I guess maybe linked to that, I'm interested to understand when you're in that group dynamic and you can see people who are bound to have fantastic contributions they could make, but for whatever reason, be it like you say, psychological safety, be it confidence, be it whatever, they're not coming forward. How do you approach those guys to try and encourage them? Do you have some techniques? Do you have some kind of process that you try and help them with?

00:31:35 Heather Hansen

Umm, well it depends what the problem is, right? If it's the connected piece, that's wrong, then we need to look at that environment and build the right connections and work on empathy-building and relationship-building skills to make that person feel more comfortable in that environment. If it's the confidence piece, and it could be skills, it could be their self-confidence. If it's the consciousness area, you know, then we need to work on the cultural sensitivity and things like that.

But if we're sitting in one of those meetings, we often think that maybe it's the leader’s job to pull these people in, or the person running the meeting. And we forget that we can also be allies. A lot of times our leaders are not self-aware enough to see that they are dominating the meeting, or that someone else could be. And others in the meeting itself could say, “Oh, hey, but what about hey, Sally, you know, we were talking about this the other day. Why don't you tell them what we were talking about, like I know that you've been working on this.” We can be allies in that sense to help these people enter the conversation to invite them in.

Technically, it should be coming from the leader. It should be the leader of that group or the person running the meeting who's balancing for inclusion, making sure all the voices are heard. But if that isn't necessarily happening, and it's very often that isn't happening, we in the meeting itself, who are self-aware, who do see what's happening, who are reading the room, we can step in with our confidence to help support others. And I think we need to do a lot more of that to help people find their voice.

And so although it is a very individual issue, we're the only ones who can press unmute and speak up. We can also help each other to do that in those group and team settings as well.

00:33:16 Andy Goram

That's a great concept, the kind of meeting ally. I really, really like that. I mean, it's really hard, I think if you're trying to lead and facilitate a meeting and participate. I mean that's why, you know, guys like me whatever, coming to help companies facilitate meetings, so that you can leave the grunt, donkey work to me and you can actively participate.

00:33:28 Heather Hansen


00:33:36 Andy Goram

But I love... I do love that idea. And for some people, that's a natural thing, right? Bringing us into a conversation. But as we've just discussed, not everybody is the same. Not everybody has the same kind of traits. Not everybody has maybe the same degree of empathy, or feelings of inclusion when they're having these conversations, right? So I think that's a great piece of advice for everybody to step up and be a meeting ally. I really like that.

I also think maybe, trust plays a huge role, right, in freeing up the lines of communication. Is that something you see in your work, as an inhibitor sometimes?

00:34:12 Heather Hansen

Yeah, the trust has to be there, and that plays very closely into the psychological safety piece. You know, you have to have that trust. You have to trust that when you speak up, the people around you are not going to tear you apart because of whatever reason. Everything from your accent, to the clarity of your thoughts, you know it can be for any reason. You have to really trust that those people are there to support you and listen and help you become better, right. That everyone’s working toward a common goal. And that we can often not be that good at in business settings. But the trust is definitely important, and it's, you know, I break it down into Brain Trust and Heart trust, right?

So, you know, do you trust that person can do the job, that they're competent, that the brain part is there? And are you trusting that they have the empathy and the emotional connection and maturity to support you and help you? So it's both of those bits that have to be in place in our teams. And we're often missing that heart trust, because we don't like to get vulnerable in the workplace. We don't necessarily like to build the closer relationships. Some people are very private. I mean, I have... my assistant who works for me full time, and has for three years, she's very, very private. And it's only me and her in the business, right. And it's like I want to hear everything, and she is just very private. I have to respect that, you know. We have very different styles, we come from very different cultures and different generations as well. So, yeah, it's about respecting those boundaries and trusting that we're watching out for each other in that sense.

00:35:54 Andy Goram

I think that's again, interesting. But you could maybe even miss the brain part, if you've never allowed them to speak. Because you never hear the great stuff that they come out with. And therefore,

My God! This person’s got great ideas. I should listen more!”

, you know? I think that's equally true, right?

00:36:12 Heather Hansen

Yeah, isn't that funny? Somebody who doesn't speak a lot, and then when they're finally given the space and invited into the conversation, they have the best idea in the room and then everybody sits there like, “Where did you come from? Why didn't we know that you were so brilliant?”, you know. And well, “I never even got a chance to enter the discussion.” And that happens a lot. It happens a lot. And that's what's scary.

We're losing all of that potential in our businesses because people just aren't even given the space. And so, they don't know how to jump in, maybe, or they aren't comfortable with that, or they haven't been invited in and released that knowledge. And that's a shame.

00:36:48 Andy Goram

That's so true. I mean, I had an example. A sort of extreme example recently with a leadership development group that I was working with. And one of the delegates was... she was a smashing lady, but she had the voice of half a mouse. I mean, it was just tiny. And at the beginning of the programme, if she summoned up the courage to speak, we never heard what she said. Not just because she had no volume, but people just were talking over her, right?

But in this one point, she had the courage to sort of get up, no more loud, but she did a proper mic drop on a point that she made. And then bang, the room was quiet. And then every time she had something to say, the room shut the hell up.

00:37:41 Heather Hansen


00:37:41 Andy Goram

And she even ended up using, cleverly, I think, her tiny voice to draw people in. Because you have to really be quiet and come in. So just because perhaps you've got a small voice or something, that doesn't mean you can't, kind of like, really control the room, right?

00:37:57 Heather Hansen

Oh, I love that story. That is so great. Oh, I wish I'd been there. I would have just loved to see that. And you bring up such a good point about the soft voice. How that can actually draw people in, right? And we're so biased to believe that this idea of eloquence. That the loud speaker, the dominant speaker, the one with the good vocabulary and the flowing words, that they're the most competent. And we continue to promote people because of their wonderful communication skills and because they're good talkers, right? And there is no correlation. There is none. You can be the best speaker in the world and say absolutely nothing, you know. And I know plenty of people like that.

And so it's about really recognising that even those with the softer voice, the ones who are quiet, or the ones who aren't always speaking, they also deserve those opportunities. And they can be just as good leaders, if not better in many cases. And so our own, it's one of those unconscious biases that we have, that we have to start talking about becoming aware of that. Just because they sound good does not mean they deserve our, you know, respect in that sense of, “Oh! They must be the most brilliant in the room.” They aren't necessarily.

00:39:11 Andy Goram

Yeah, there's too... yeah. I have to be careful. Like, I could give lots of examples of people who just breathe hot air in groups and stuff that I've been to. And you can see people around the room going, “What?” And they think they're being amazing, but they're kind of inhibiting everyone else.

00:39:25 Heather Hansen


00:39:25 Andy Goram

But now I'm going to get into a negative spiral. I'm going to stop all of that because I've loved this conversation and we are rapidly running out of time. So I am going to put you on the spot a little bit.

00:39:35 Heather Hansen


00:39:35 Andy Goram

If that’s OK? So we've come to this part in the show that I call Sticky Notes, right? And it's where I'm looking for you to give us your pearls of wisdom, your best advice that people could take away on 3 little Sticky Notes. We keep it simple here.

00:39:49 Heather Hansen

Umm, I love your sticky notes. I love this concept. I've been preparing my Sticky Notes I love it. Alright.

00:39:57 Andy Goram

Briliant! So if you were to give us 3 little Sticky Notes to help us become more effective, global communicators would be on your little Sticky Notes?

00:40:05 Heather Hansen

OK, first, 100% my motto. Connection, not perfection. That was the first thing that we talked about today as well. So, Connection, not perfection. Focus on building that relationship. It doesn't have to be perfect.

Second one is Authentic adaptability that we talked about. Having a curious mindset. Be yourself. Don't be a jerk. Go into the room, be curious, make space for others, know how to adapt and be flexible. So, Authentic adaptability.

That's number 2. The third one is so aligned now with the story you just told, about this woman. Remember that every voice matters. Every single voice matters. You don't know who's going to open their mouth and say something absolutely amazing. And you have to stop and listen. Make space to listen and be inclusive of everyone, because that's why you hired them. Don't let their ideas go to waste so every voice matters.

That’s Sticky Note number 3.

00:41:00 Andy Goram

They are fantastic! I love those Sticky Notes. I shall stick them on the Instagram channel and we'll make them look like beautiful things that they should be.

00:41:07 Heather Hansen

Wonderful. I'm going to stick them in my office now, I think. I should have those everywhere.

00:41:12 Andy Goram

Everybody should have your Sticky Notes, that is for sure.

Heather, I have thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. Before we go, where can people find Unmuted? Where can they get hold of that, and where can they find out a bit more about you?

00:41:26 Heather Hansen

Well, you can find out about both at for more specifics around the book itself. And the book is available all over the UK, all over the world at this stage and of course everywhere online. So you can find it easily on Amazon or wherever you like to shop.

00:41:43 Andy Goram

Well, we'll drop some links into the show notes and we'll put your TEDx talk in there as well so people can kind of listen to that. That is a great talk too.

00:41:51 Heather Hansen

And I'd love to connect on LinkedIn as well, so feel free to reach out.

00:41:54 Andy Goram

Well, we'll put all those links in.

Heather, so good of you to come on the show. Delighted to have this conversation today. It's been so insightful and great fun. Thank you so much.

00:42:07 Heather Hansen

It's been such a great time, Andy, thanks so much for having me. This has been really fun.

00:42:10 Andy Goram

You're welcome. You take care. See you soon.

OK everyone, that was Heather Hansen and if you'd like to find out a bit more about her or any of the topics we've talked about today please check out the show notes.

00:42:26 Andy Goram

That concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something, maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forwards.

If you have, please like comment and subscribe, it really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the Sticky From The Inside podcast. until next time, thanks for listening.

Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world.

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