I don’t want to make excuses but when you lead an organisation it is so hard to ‘hear’ the important information that gets sent your way. Some people get hundreds of e mails, with everyone in the organisation adding you to a ‘cc’ list often to cover their backs rather than taking responsibility for their own actions. Then there’s the endless stream of meetings and the casual conversations in corridors adding to the noise.
On the other side there are co-workers with great ideas and boundless enthusiasm who are frustrated because no one seems to be listening to them. Depending on their mindset we hear the following: (1 is a sign of engagement – 4 show they are completely disengaged)
- ‘We pass on our ideas’
- ‘We told them this would happen’
- ‘They don’t listen to us’
- ‘If they bothered to ask us we could have prevented this’
Unfortunately, we sometimes come across ‘the high and mighty’ leader. This type can reside anywhere in an organisation, not necessarily at the top. They somehow obtain a title to go on their name badge, this gives them status. At this point, their hearing becomes affected by the extra weight imbued by their seniority. I’m always wary around people who have a name badge extension to accommodate the extra lettering needed to proclaim their rank. Perhaps we need to do some research to prove the negative coloration between job title length and the ability to hear what colleagues are saying. I believe this starts to happen at about four words.
This is nicely illustrated by an untrue but widely repeated story from an ‘alleged’ transcript of an actual radio conversation between a US naval ship and Canadian maritime contact off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995.
Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees North to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees South to avoid collision.
Americans: This is the captain of a US navy ship; I say again divert your course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.
Americans: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. (A pretty big job title you have to admit). I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH, THAT’S ONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER-MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.
Canadians: We are a lighthouse; your call.
Are you an aircraft carrier or a lighthouse?