“I See”. It is a familiar phrase that we hear all too often. Do you notice how the phrase is out of your listener’s mouth before you even finish what you are saying. “I See”. “I KNOW”. Everyone wants to know but in an effort to prove we already know, we lose the opportunity to gain new knowledge. Listening and seeing are two of the most powerful senses available to humans, yet they are so under utilized. As managers, listening and seeing is your greatest source of information. You need good information to make decisions. Then why do we not utilize these senses better?
Think about the times in your life you had “light bulb” moments. True discoveries or revelations that have stuck with you. I am willing to bet they were moments you were totally absorbed listening or seeing. Knowledge requires attention and we seldom devote attention to any one thing for any time.
I often Blog about Toyota. That is because I see them as the bench mark in manufacturing. Toyota will often ask new engineers to stand in a small square box observing what is going on around them. Their supervisors do not instruct them to watch for anything in particular, just to observe. They stand for hours in their little watching what goes on around them. After they have completed their observations, senior managers will ask them to report on what they have observed. What a learning opportunity. A fly on the wall. Watching the people, the process and the interaction. That is true learning. But wait, We don’t have time to waste standing in a square, we have things to do. We spend so much time doing, we don’t have time to understand what is really happening. Do you take the time to actually see what is going on in your company or you just focused on getting to the next project. As you walk across the shop floor do you see the processes and interactions, the people? Do you think about what you expect to see and compare it to what you actually see? If you are in management you know the procedures and processes that are written. Is that what you are seeing? Are you seeing it and it just doesn’t work? Are things happening that aren’t part of that policy that are working better? Do you see people struggling to follow the process without the proper equipment? Do you take the time to look or are you just rushing from one place to another? I think if we would take the time to stop and observe, we would find many of the answers to the questions we struggle with.
Think about the last time someone came into your office. What was your response? Oh no. I don’t have time for them. I need to finish my report on the production process. Are you a direct part of that process? Maybe they are. They probably know more about the subject of your report then you do. Maybe you are trying to find a solution to a problem. What solutions could they bring to the situation if you would simply ask and LISTEN? What about the last time you were walking through the production area of your work place, the shop, sales floor or where ever your company’s rubber meets the road? Did you talk about anything other than how was their weekend? It’s great to ask about their weekend but they have so much more knowledge they want to share, if you will just listen. Do you cut people off? Before they even finish do you jump in “I know but…”. You have already covered that point with others and you don’t have time to go through the entire discussion with them so you cut them off and supply the final chapter on that topic. Maybe they had additional information or another angle to look at the problem. We just don’t have time to listen. Cutting people off and not actually listening at the least is rude behavior. More than being rude it robs you the opportunity to gather information. In a room of people, who do you think the most intelligent person is, the one that knows about every subject and is always talking or the one quietly listening? I’m betting on the quiet one. The one talking isn’t learning anything new, they are simply sharing what they already know. The quiet one, if they are listening is capturing the knowledge of all the “know it alls” in the room. If they aren’t the smartest ones now, they eventually will be.
Now as I stand atop my great soap box and shout the virtues of true listening and seeing, I must make a confession. I am one of the worst at both of these. I am always so “busy” I don’t always take the opportunities before me to see and hear the solutions to most of the problems I am so busy working on. When I go through the shop I am usually intent on getting somewhere and not on the journey itself. I talk to the management staff about “Management by Wandering” I truly believe in it but do not practice it well. I know my co-workers know a great deal more than me about the business but too often spend my time blabbing about what I know.
So…. maybe this Blog is written more for myself than others. This is my wake up call to practice what I preach and slow down to listen and see.
If you see me standing in a box sometime please come by and tell me what you are thinking about. I promise I will listen.