Shut up and listen!

My apologies if the title of this entry offended anyone.  I’m not usually so direct (although maybe I should be more often?).  My justification is that it’s a direct quotation from this TED talk.

Ernesto SirolliErnesto Sirolli’s talk is on the topic of of sustainable development.  He has a wonderfully witty, self-deprecating delivery style, and an important message to convey.

As I listened to him, I realised that his lessons for the area of development work also applied more widely for leadership.  Two key messages emerged for me.

Firstly, ‘Shut up and listen!’

What you do [to provide better aid is] you shut up. You never arrive in a community with any ideas.

If you want to help someone in any walk of life, you need to know what the problem is from their perspective.  Often we trot out our planned solution before we’ve done any real listening.  We hear the first few phrases, then we make a judgment and start solving.  Sirolli’s hippo story is a wonderful example.  (No, I’m not going to tell the story – it’d be much better to hear it from him!)

Secondly, it’s not about ‘I’, it’s about ‘we’.

There’s only one thing that all the successful companies in the world have in common: None was started by one person.

Sirolli argues (rightly in my opinion) that no-one has all of the skills needed for success.  Of course, it takes a degree of humility – or common sense – to accept that we are not omnipotent.  But when we do, we open up great possibilities.


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