The Listening Project is a collaboration with Howard Krais and Dr. Kevin Ruck.  As well as our reports (see two recent conversations on this site), the survey across Europe, Middle East and Africa and various webinars and workshops we are shortly launching a global Listening Survey.


What motivates us is the belief that organisations can improve performance, innovation, resilience, and wellbeing by listening effectively to their people.  Our work with the IABC Foundation is helping supply the evidence and stories to back up the claim.

PR Academy and Couravel are running an online course commencing July 2020 and repeating a number of times for experienced communicators and HR professionals to develop the Listening Capabilities of their organisations.

Link to report: –

Couravel_Listening_Report_Project_2_Good Practice

I’m delighted to share the results of the second report that Howard Krais, Dr. Kevin Ruck and I have published.  With the help of the IABC Foundation we have spoken to serial winners of the Gold Quill, a rigorously evaluated International Communicators’ Award.  To win a Gold Quill entrants have to demonstrate how their work is grounded in a thorough analysis of audience and business needs.  Serial winners represent an excellent proxy for organisations that excel at listening to their people.


This report summarises the stories and principles we learned from them.  It also provides a comprehensive overview of Listening Tools that people can use to generate great conversations within their businesses.


We also feature the Listening Spectrum to help think about the kind of approach to take given different objectives.


Who’s listening?


A small scale research project exploring how organisations listen to employees


“Who’s Listening?” features the results of the research that we conducted into the state of organisational listening across EMENA with the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and PR Academy.

The report’s insights include:

  1. Effective listening to employees is seen to deliver a more competitive organisation, a greater sense of employee engagement and advocacy (reducing reputational risk), more trust in leadership, greater innovation and openness to change, resilience, learning and well-being
  2. “Fear” is a major barrier to listening for both employees and leaders.  It is not just speaking truth to power that can inhibit employees.  Some leaders and managers avoid creating important listening opportunities because they fear exposure to uncertainty and questions that they feel they cannot but should be able to answer
  3. Listening that focuses on strategic and operational goals will enhance traction for listening initiatives.  In other words, to gain support for listening activities they need to focus on drivers of growth and performance, or on factors that could reduce risk (e.g. how to increase compliance).  This helps build leaders’ confidence in the importance and value of listening.
  4. At the same time leaders that create face to face sessions to meet and talk without set agendas build employees’ confidence in leadership and trust in the business
  5. Surveys need visible and transparent feedback and response mechanisms that demonstrate the impact that they are having.  Surveys have become common place and in some cases a scorecard rather than a positive tool to increase effectiveness

Download your copy of the report here.

Employee listening research report

Developing listening organisations for the 21st Century Listening matters Listening is important. 98% of people agree listening to stakeholder groups is a critical communication competence and 89% say the insights they bring from listening are of strategic importance.1 Listening matters for: Responsiveness and survival2 The speed at which industries and markets are changing means we need […]

How and why to use the story of your business to build engagement and purpose


The birth of the business and the founders’ hopes highlight the DNA.  The early and crises years add colour, athenticity and credibility.  The recent past acknowledges the importance of current people and sets up a discussion of what needs to change.  Click here for the guide on mapping history.


What can you do to make people happier at work?

The focus for a knowledge cafe1 (facilitated by David Gurteen at Portcullis House in Westminster) threw up some valuable insights and reflections.

James Brown the business psychologist kicked off with some personal stories and highlights of the growth in poor mental health identified by the CIPD.  For example, in 2017, 55% of organisations in 2017 reported mental health conditions have increased.  The figure was 41% in 2016.

The knowledge cafe itself led to a great conversation.  James has posted about it here.  What I took from it was:

  • How important it is for each of us to think about our personal purpose and find ways to integrate what we do at work with who we are
      • Aimee Campbell from Unilever told me about some of the work that they were doing to encourage people to reflect on their own personal purpose and what it meant for them.  
  • The importance of celebrating success and learning from what we do well 
      • James Brown talked about the work the NHS is doing to Learn from Excellence and find ways to report positively so that the organisation learns and so that people recognise what is great about their work, and not be subsumed by the stresses and challenges of everyday work and some of the negative press that surrounds mistakes
  • Giving people a voice 
      • Some one said that there is nothing like a change programme to silence peoples’ voices.  
      • We debated the difficulty during change work of of being open to listening while maintaining a new course, and how leaders need to remember to keep re-stating the reasons and rationale for change so that people do not lose sight of that even, as they do not like some of the implications for how it affects them
  • The problems caused by social media 
      • Social media encourages people to value immediacy, fame and “good news” rather than reflection, substance and reality (note to self: what do you expect a bunch of people involved in a knowledge cafe to value?).  Does this contribute to the rise in poor mental health highlighted by James Brown at the start of the meeting? 
  • Less face time:
      • It is getting more and more difficult to give people face to face time in a global, digital business environment.  How can we mitigate the problems this causes?  How can we make time for it, or improve the digital experience so that our group screen to screen time offers the same value as group face to face time.  Is this even possible?

On this last point David Gurteen talked about how he was using Zoom to get high value conversations using the Knowledge Cafe methodology.

1 A final word to plug David Gurteen’s knowledge cafe.  This is an open, conversation based approach to learning.  Responding to a core question – e.g. what can you do to make people happier at work? – people gain insights in multiple small conversations followed by a plenary round circle.  It is a very powerful approach for personal learning. 

#knowledgecafe #mentalhealth #employeeengagement #resonantleadership

Every team, group and organisation needs clarity about its purpose.   This chart explores questions that are helpful in uncovering purpose.  Use this to start a quality purpose-defining conversation within a team at any level in an organisation, or within an association or community group.


What is the difference between Mission and Purpose and Vision?

Having a strong sense of Purpose that inspires people makes a real difference as our recent webinar explained.  But on that webinar about creating and sharing Purpose there were lots of questions about terminology.  It is clearly an area that causes confusion.  Most clients need to spend time on this and many different companies use the terminology in different ways.  Here are some useful definitions.  What is important is that you decide what makes sense to you and then use the terminology consistently.

Mission and Purpose

These are used interchangeably but think of Mission as What we are here to do and Purpose as Why.  Mission for Google is: “To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,”

Samsung introduces a “why” into their Mission Statement: “To inspire the world with our innovative technologies, products and designs that enrich people’s lives and contribute to social prosperity by creating a new future.”

The “why” is important and it usually refers to who we are doing things for.  It provides the inspiration.  In other words, why the “what” is worth doing.   For Google it is about making information available to everyone.  For Samsung it is about enriching lives and creating prosperity.

Now look at Amazon: “To be the Earth’s most customer centric company where people can find and discover anything they want.”  You see the same pattern of a What and a Why.


This is about what the world will look like when we are successful.  Google describe their vision as “to provide access to the world’s information in one click.”  Sounds pretty much like the mission to me.  Both Samsung and Amazon describe their Vision as their Missions.  But there is a difference.  Compare how Oxfam and Vodafone describe their purpose and their vision”


Purpose: “To help create lasting solutions to the injustice of poverty. We are part of a global movement for change, one that empowers people to create a future that is secure, just, and free from poverty.”

Vision: “A just world without poverty: a world in which people can influence decisions that affect their lives, enjoy their rights, and assume their responsibilities as full citizens of a world in which all human beings are valued and treated equally.”


Purpose: “To connect everybody to live a better today and build a better tomorrow.”

Vision: “A converged communications leader, a Gigabit Vodafone for the Gigabit Society.”

There are differences but clearly there is a close link between why we are here and what the world looks like as a result of our presence.  Both vision and mission are designed to help clarify and inspire.

Read more

Michael Gove famously claimed that Britain had had enough of “Experts.”  Whether he is right or not a lot of change involves venturing into new territory.  New ways of working require people to work together to learn from each other.  The Ideas Exchange is an approach to learning used with members of the International Association […]