Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Art of Listening

I have been in sales and business development roles for most of my career. Many years ago, I would spend lots of time preparing PowerPoint presentations and rehearsing a software demo. I would go into the meeting with the idea of impressing the audience with my presentation and demo. I rarely do that anymore preferring to go in with some information in a binder that I can refer to if needed and then just having a conversation. What I want is for the individual or group to let me know their problems, what they would like to do better in their business, and what is giving them a particular challenge right now. I then can discuss ways in which my company may be able to help them solve their problems and help them be more efficient.

I'm afraid many of our politicians are very good with a prepared speech and a quick soundbite to the reporter but not very good at listening. Town Hall meetings are supposed to be a discussion, correct? It is an opportunity for the politician to listen to their constituents, find out what is not working for them, their challenges, and discuss potential solutions with them. It is supposed to be a dialog. It appears that the congressmen and women have gone into these meetings like I used to go into sales meetings early in my career - prepared to "wow" us with their speech and knowledge. The issues of today are complex with many opinions and potential solutions. Congress needs a lesson in the art of listening to the voters. If they want to stay in office, they better start listening to the real frustration that is out there. People want their voices heard.

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