27 Nov 2012

Shut up and listen!

Ever approach a task with so much focus, confidence and intent that on reflection you wished you had perhaps slowed down a bit, asked a few more questions, and listened a bit more. The later point being the crucial one! Well, I hold my hands up high as I know I am guilty of this. It's so easy to get caught up with your own objectives, that the needs and wants of the intended audience can sometimes be ignored, or at least not fully understood.

Don't get me wrong, these are attributes that drive my ambition, and well, make me me, however if I was told I could increase my effectiveness exponentially by refining my listening skills, well then you have my attention!

I will caveat the above with a famous quote from Henry Ford, that I think is worth remembering, as pioneers and innovators often deliver a product from a left field angle, and standard rules of listening may not apply. “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

This post isn't just about me, or even about our own personal development, it is about how listening skills, or even just how listening itself can totally (re)-define a company, a project, a campaign. From this, greater, better, and more worth-while results can be achieved; and I completely dig that.

Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

Below is a great and heartfelt @TEDTalk by Ernesto Sirolli. In the early 1970's and at age 21, Ernesto started doing aid work in Africa with the honest objective of helping others. In Ernesto's own words, "every single project that we set up in Africa failed".

Ernesto goes on to explain how even though they thought they were doing good (in his example growing imported Italian vegetables in very fertile lands for the local community), actually they should have listened to the not so enthusiastic locals, that the hippos would come and eat the crops; which they did!

This failure, along with several others inspired Ernesto, and formed the foundation of everything he has accomplished and evangelised about since; which is a lot!.  "The first step is to listen to the people you're trying to help, and tap into their own entrepreneurial spirit."

The TED Talk gives real life examples of how this approach has benefited the great community work Ernesto has done over the last four decades, and how we can, and should, learn from his experience and approach.

"Ernesto Sirolli is now a noted authority in the field of sustainable economic development and is the Founder of the Sirolli Institute, an international non-profit organization that teaches community leaders how to establish and maintain Enterprise Facilitation projects in their community. The Institute is now training communities in the USA, Canada, Australia, England and Scotland." Full Bio

Follow @Sirolli on Twitter

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