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First Response | The Discipline of Stop & Listen

Situation + Response = Outcome (S+R=O) is a simple formula to approach Responding to any Situation with the discipline to get the best possible Outcome. If you want better outcomes, you have to give a Better Response.

First Response is a system to discipline your mind to deliver a Response to any Situation to get the most desired Outcome.  Managing how you respond to Situations is a key ingredient to maintaining a strong work ethic.  Having to respond to the same Situation multiple times indicates a lack of clarity and expectations or understanding of the Situation.  There is a better way to respond with a simple formula: Situation + Response = Outcome (S+R=O).

s+r=o diagram

Stop & Listen is the first and most critical point of the S+R=O formula.  When a Situation occurs, it’s important for the leader to receive information in a clear and concise manner.  In every Situation, there are two possibly competing forces at work: Attitudes and Perceptions.

In the Growth Mindset, your attitudes range from Grateful to Opportunistic.  The Growth Mindset constantly looks for positive Outcomes, is connected to people across the organization, and is an energetic, empathic, and empowering set of Attitudes.  The Fixed Mindset is the polar opposite of the Growth Mindset and is entitled, disenchanted, and disconnected from others. Our Attitudes can enhance or derail the S+R=O formula. If you approach the Situation out of the gate with a negative mindset and negative Attitudes, you are going to dramatically impact your Perceptions of the Situation.  

Attitudes are the key.  Negative Attitudes almost always lead to a negative Outcome.  Whether you are working in an office, in a warehouse, on a construction line, or in the field, if you have a negative Attitude, your Response is almost always doomed. There are also Situations that can impact your Attitude.  The gravity of the situation, particularly if it includes personal risk or physical harm, can immediately impact your Attitude.  

Imagine your Attitude after getting rear-ended in the parking lot and you walk into the office.  You could be all fun and games because it rolls right off you or you can be in a seriously negative space, angry for the damage and the disruption to your day.  That simple situation can change your Attitude – even for just a few moments.  But put another way, assume your Attitude is relatively positive and then Negative Nelly walks in and unloads on being rear-ended in the parking lot.  Even though you were not in the Situation, it’s easy for your Attitude to shift from positive, “Are you okay?  You were not injured, were you?  I am grateful you were not hurt” to “There are so many jerks around here who do not care how they drive.”   And all of a sudden your emotions kick in, your heart rate elevates and anger boils up that then disrupts your day.

At that very moment Stop & Listen becomes more important.  When you Stop & Listen, you have a chance to reach back to your normal positive self.


The Mechanics of Stop & Listen


You might think that Stop & Listen is kind of self-explanatory.  But in today’s highly connected world, it’s harder than ever to actually Stop and Listen at the same time.  So here are the mechanics for you to start S+R=O:

  1. Stop – that means everything. Stop reading, stop texting, stop Spotify, stop emails, stop streaming whatever.  Stop.  
  2. Put it Down – whatever you have on your desk, in your hand, in your briefcase, whatever you have that may distract you, put it down.  Airbuds out of the ears.  Headphones off your head.  Put your mobile phone down.  
  3. Step Away – if possible, step away from your desk, step away from your keyboard, step away from your phone.
  4. Beware of your Body Language – crossing your arms can come across that you are uncomfortable; putting your hand in your pockets can look like you are disinterested.  Put your hands on the desk, arms on the desk, and lean forward.  When you lean forward, people realize you are listening to them.
  5. Look At Them – if you are listening to them and looking at the squirrel out your window, you are not paying attention.  You think you are, but you are missing the visual queues associated with the vocal queues, and those impact your perception of what you hear.
  6. Use Active Listening – active listening is about repeating what you hear and validating it with the person you are hearing it from. Your perceptions range from “What I thought I heard” to “What I sensed I heard” and “What I think they meant.”  Active Listening stomps on your perceptions so you hear exactly what is being said and what it means.
  7. Ask Questions – don’t interrupt, let the speaker speak.  But in a momentary pause, ask questions to clarify what you heard.  Clarifying questions are essential to get the best Outcome with a Disciplined Response.
  8. Take Notes – mental notes if you have to, but you may also have one item you can use and that is to take notes.  Don’t doodle, take notes.  Depending on the gravity of the situation, physical notes are better than mental notes that over time can weaken due to the will of your perceptions.

Having the Discipline to Stop & Listen is the first of the 4 Disciplines to S+R=O: Stop & Listen; Assess the Situation; Identify Outcomes; Discipline your Response.  If you want better Outcomes the FIRST time, you are going to need to build a better Response and that starts with Stop & Listen.


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