How To Get Their Attention

I’ve written 640 blog posts and never had a response like I received from last Monday’s post, What Happens When We Really Listen. Notice I didn’t say “reaction,” I’m not counting up social shares or page views, I’m talking about real human beings from around the world reaching out in deeply personal ways.

First was the executive who picked up the phone as soon as he read it. “I’ve never done this before, and I’m a bit surprised I’m doing this now. But I just called to say ‘thank you.’ You really made me think. I try to listen the way you describe here, and sometimes I do that quite well, but I know I fall short when other priorities get in the way. Thanks for the reminder to do this better. That is all, I guess, I really just called to say ‘thank you.’ ” Wow.

The next phone call was from a senior leader who began almost entirely the same way…”I’ve never done this before, but your story reminded me of my story.” (PS: that’s why stories work.)

“You see I was headed to an important appointment with my boss, the CEO of our company–he was driving. I received a phone call. I mostly listened. ‘Yes… I understand… okay.’ When I hung up the phone my boss asked what was wrong.

Without taking time to process, I just said, ‘That was my doctor. I have cancer.’

He pulled the car to the side of the road. Looked me right in the eye and said, ‘You’re going to be okay. You know we all love you.’

I was shocked. If you knew this guy, you would never imagine him to be someone who would say anything like that.

Can you imagine how lucky I am, of all the people I could work for in the universe, to be able to work for someone like that?

Five years later, the cancer has not returned and there is nothing that I wouldn’t do for that guy.”

The truth is the “universe” would be a heck of a lot better if a more people took the time to pull their car over.

It didn’t stop there, the next call came from a man wanting to explore some collaboration opportunities. The next, an invitation to present at an executive summit  for manufacturing C-levels– on (you guessed it– listening). And then the CEO from Lebanon whom I’ll be Skyping with tomorrow:

This might be a bit of a different email than what you usually receive, but when I read your blog on “What Happens when we Really Listen,” I felt a kind of connection between what you are saying and how I actually think about relations…

What really encouraged me to write to you is not only the fact that we share a common passion towards growing Leaders, and our sincere belief in the power of emotions in successful business communication, but actually what you mentioned about the fact that your mother will not be able to read your book.

You see, I lost my mother to cancer in 2000, and my Dad passed away last September. Amidst all this, I always get this burst of sad feelings that they both will not be around to see my kids growing, nor they will be around to enjoy what life we are making. Still, and in connection to intellectual content, I always feel a bit bitter that they will not be around to celebrate my achievements…

(and then a lot of his background and a request to help him think through his thought leadership strategy)

But the question remains, having the thought, the content, the ability remains insufficient if you do not have the Ears and Recognition of the World. Because we can only be influenced if we get the World to listen to us….

 How did you get the World to Listen to you?

Why do people listen? I’m not exactly sure. But I’m convinced it has to do with showing up human.

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

10 Comments

  1. Listening.

    Not too many do it well.

    Most listen with an agenda.

    I like Alan Alda’s take on listening. I’m looking to be changed by the other person. When I approach each convo in this manner, I’m fully present. The other person can see and feel my presence.

    • Steve, Thanks as always. One of my next projects is to a workshop for 15 CEOs/CFO, I’m calling it “Do You Hear Them Now” 😉 This will give me some focused time to think about how we best operationalize and teach listening.

  2. We all have a need to be heard, Karin. The responses you’ve received are testimony to that.

    And I agree that is why stories work…they invite our emotional investment. Once there, we are in a place where we can really listen to what someone else is saying….

    Congratulations on a great article that provoked such thoughtful responses…

  3. Listening seems like it’s more and more rare these days. Sure, people hear my words (if you don’t count my children) but it’s not often I can say I feel like I’m truly and deeply heard.

    You’re right, it’s our stories that people hear far more than our lessons. We’re all on a journey and doing our best to get where we want, and ultimately meant, to go. It’s beautiful when we know we’re not on the journey alone.

    Thanks, Karin.

    ~ Alli

    • Alli, I’m quite sure your children are listening to everything you’re putting down… even when they pretend otherwise.

  4. You were truly heard Karin!

    Listening to really understand what people are saying takes far more than just facing them and opening our ears. It is when we share our vulnerabilities and imperfections that people actually perk up and pay attention.

    I have found through the years that storytelling is one of the most powerful ways for leaders to be influential. It is through the sharing of human emotions that we connect and build trust with one another.

    Thanks Karin for your beautiful post!

    • Thanks, Terri. I had a meeting with an LGL devoted member who admitted that for a few months he just lurked to see if I was “for real.” Once he saw the consistency of engagement he jumped in with full heart and now we are working together. Humans want to work with other humans and that is good!

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