If Leaders Can't Hear -- How Will They Ever Listen?

This past week, at the annual conference for my professional organization, I found myself saying, “I beg your pardon?” far too often.  I just plain could not understand what people were saying. I missed sentences from the front stage. I thought my roommates were mumbling.  Consonants were especially difficult. I would hear the word “Lark” and the word would really be “Mark”.


On Thursday I had a hearing test. Yes, I do have a hearing loss. How can that be? Profound hearing loss sits on the male side of my family. From my great-grandfather down to my twin brother, they all wore/wear hearing aids. Did my twin decide to share some of that genetic makeup with me? He stinks. (But I still love him.) So here I sit with a phenomenal hearing aid, so small that only my hairdresser would know. With the touch of a finger I can change the volume for everything from the theater to a restaurant to a family dinner.  This little gem is the product of an amazing company in Minnesota that has an even more amazing foundation. The Starkey Foundation's mission is to change the social consciousness of hearing through education and research while providing the gift of hearing to those in need around the world.  Check it out! At the same time, I am struck by the fact that hearing is very different from listening.  Could it be that the majority of Congress needs hearing aids? They certainly do not know how to listen. Should I give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are hard of hearing? Hearing is the physical function. Listening requires the mind, the heart and the soul. It's why I spend so much time in corporate America and in the nonprofit world-- trying to help people listen in these three dimensions. It is the only way to create collaboration, innovation, and community. Now that I can hear, I must practice what I preach: listening!

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