American television and radio host, Larry King, once stated: “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” The problem I see with most people in management these days, is they have forgotten how to listen. It’s as if, now that they have power over people, they’ve decided there is only one way to do things, THEIR WAY. Yes, there is only one way to do things, the RIGHT WAY … and the only way to find that way … is to listen to the people who are involved in doing it every day.
Walmart has over 11,000 locations, 2.3 million employees and did over $482.13 billion in sales last year. Their founder, Sam Walton, once stated : “The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say. It’s terribly important for everyone to get involved. Our best ideas come from clerks and stock boys.” Most managers aren’t great listeners, and because that is the case, they will always remain ordinary leaders. The captains of industry understand that listening is the most valuable of leadership skills. The only way to identify problems and opportunities is to listen. We all should take note that our ears will never get us in trouble ; not only will they not get us in trouble, they will also help keep us out of trouble.
The Schwinn bicycle company was founded in 1895. By the 1950’s they totally dominated the bicycle market, but because of their leader’s management style, that was soon not to be the case. Edward Schwinn, the CEO in the mid 1980’s made it clear to everyone, that he did not like to be contradicted. He personally believed that mountain bikes were a passing fad and therefore, argued against putting any investment into advancing the mountain bike category. One senior executive with the company, totally disagreed with Mr. Schwinn’s reasoning during a strategic management meeting. Mr. Schwinn adjourned the meeting and told everyone that they would reconvene in two weeks for further discussion on the subject. During the two-week break, Mr. Schwinn fired the senior executive who disagreed with him. When they reconvened two weeks later, did any one of the remaining senior executives speak out against Mr. Schwinn’s reasoning? NOPE! … which turned out to be a catastrophic mistake. Schwinn went bankrupt and is now owned by a Chinese firm who wanted the brand name.
There is no reason to have a meeting if you are not going to listen to the suggestions of the people in the room; it is a total waste of time and frustrating to everyone attending the meeting. I have also found, in most cases, that the size of a person’s ego and ears(listening) are directly related … the larger the ego the smaller the ears. Great managers/leaders surround themselves with talent and then listen to what they have to say. There is an old Turkish proverb that states: “If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.”