This may be a rather crass way to start a new year. However, it tells a critically important story. I have several children; I have learned a lot from them. One particular lesson continues to play an important role in my life.
Late one night one of the teens came home from a school activity. He was upset. I do not remember the situation. However, as a caring father, I tried to solve his problem. In a moment of extreme frustration he said to me, “Dad, shut up and listen!” I was stunned. My children never talked to me that way, and here I was trying to help. My first reaction was one of indignation with a twinge of hurt. Fortunately, I was so caught off guard that I stopped talking. He then poured out his problems and his feelings. After getting it all out, he asked for my input and my help.
Through all of my experiences, training, and education, this advice from a child tops the stack. Through my observations of many organizations, this one change – leadership talking less and listening more – would mean the difference between marginal success and optimal success, or even between success and failure.
As I look around at businesses and organization, I want to shout that advice to them: “shut up and listen!” No, I am not talking about listening to me. I am talking to leadership about being willing to stop amid all of the “stuff” that goes on unceasingly around them. I am saying, as my son did to me, to just close the mouth long enough to hear what is really going on. With all of the really poor decisions many American businesses have made in the past, they need to get out of the telling mode and into the learning mode; perhaps starting with their employees.
As a New Year’s resolution, perhaps we could all be more willing to listen and more willing to learn.