Why Active Listening Is Important to Drive Sustainable Growth

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Close your eyes. What do you hear? The zooming traffic outside. Office devices humming in the background. Chatter emanating from the hallway. Let’s face it the world is a noisy place.

Epictetus, the Greek philosopher, said back in AD 55 – ‘We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak’. This was a great quote back then and with so many communication channels competing for our attention it’s even more relevant today.

Here’s the thing. Hearing is not the same as listening. And passive listening is not the same as active listening.

Why is making this distinction important to leaders and the organisation’s success? In a nutshell, if as leaders, we don’t sharpen our active listening skill we risk

not learning what matters the most to key stakeholders.

If we don’t ‘pull’ what inspires them or understand their pain we can’t give them what they want. Instead we end up ‘pushing’ what we think they need. Put another way – need equals survive. Want equals grow. Which would you prefer?

If it’s the latter, here are a few thoughts about why using the organisation’s event portfolio, as an active listening device, is worth its weight in gold in an already very loud world.

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Purpose, Transformation And Sustainable Growth Through Events

Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January, a respected group of forward-looking leaders, including Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington, led a discussion and unveiling of 5-key findings from new research by EY and Said Business School, University of Oxford.

The reason for the research – ‘current global realities have changed the game. Today, corporate capacity for innovation and transformation is a critical imperative to survive – and to thrive. This is transformation beyond better products and services. It is the ability to do business in fundamentally different ways attuned to these new realities.’

The 5-transformation trends introduced support the need for organisations to leverage and sustain ‘innovation and growth’ by thinking about their purpose in a different way.

One of the best business books I have read about defining purpose is Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. Sinek’s The Golden Circle is brilliant:

Why is the purpose that drive decisions
How is the actions taken to realise the purpose
What is the result of the actions taken

Every leader, who wants to innovate and drive sustainable business growth, needs to make a fundamental change to how they view and leverage their event portfolio purpose. If not done then the organisation has made a bad investment and needs to stop doing events. Full Stop!

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A Come-To-Jesus Moment

WOW…what a huge opportunity, Bill McDermott, CEO SAP, created for Business Events 2.0 (BE2.0)! In this 5 minute video McDermott challenged CEOs’ perceptions about BE2.0 and encouraged the business world and event community to think about events in a whole new way. From:

• Costs to investment.
• Transactions to transformation.
• Efficiency to effectiveness.
• Travel components to a leader’s investment in organisational growth.

I couldn’t agree with McDermott more. In fact, BE2.0 as a leadership and business enabler has been my mantra for 15+ years. Ask anyone who has heard me, over the years, rave about opportunities to engage CEOs, and rant when folks failed to capitalised on the opportunity to its fullest potential. And if you’ve missed any of my sermons on this topic, check out my CEO’s BFF blog and other posts on our site.

Here’s what has me stoked about what McDermott said.

For the first time in my 25+ years, as an Engagement and Event Strategist, a forward-looking CEO, unequivocally confirms that BE2.0 drive business value. In a nutshell SAP’s event portfolio is enlisted in the process of creating the right growth strategy and market-creating opportunities McDermott exacts.

This folks IS a game-changer on many levels. After meandering and searching for an identity and purpose for two decades, BE2.0 have an opportunity to move beyond travel and be seen and used as a leadership tool for the purpose of driving business growth.

While McDermott is cognisant of the travel components used to design an efficient and effective event, he is focused on the results (outputs) BE2.0 create. In other words the travel components contribute to the ‘event pageantry and movement’ and are not the reason BE2.0 are important to McDermott and most CEOs.

This is a small shift and a significant one at the same time to change the conversation and elevate it to where a CEO will say, ‘okay I’m listening…now tell me more’. The more, at this stage, has little to do with travel components and everything to do with how BE2.0 can unleash and harvest, the collective knowledge at any event, to move the organization forward more rapidly, at a lower cost with less risk and uncertainty.

Can you see why I’m stoked?

 

Value Is Not A One Size Fits All Proposition

Every so often I pick up an event trade publication to see what’s going on. (Side bar: I left the Meeting & Event Community (Community) in 2006 to co-evolve a Value Creation Framework for c-level executives. We are now introducing the Butterfly Edge© Framework to corporations and planning organisations.) Recently on one such occasion I read Meetings + Incentive Travel (M&IT), a Canadian trade publication, announced its ‘2014 editorial agenda will include a good, hard look at questions about value.’  For the record my intention here is not to single out M⁢ proving event value is frequently covered by all trade publications.

Reading this got me asking my own questions.  For instance, why hasn’t the Community figured this out already? Value Creation, value validation, ROI and ROE, whatever you want to call it, has been a HUGE white elephant in the Community’s room for decades. One would think the Community would have figured out its value proposition by now. Could one of the reason it hasn’t, be the result of what we don’t know can’t hurt us kind of thinking.

images5TQ75HFYIt has always been my belief the Community has no interest to take a good hard look at itself and how it fits into the changes taking place around it. Why?  In a nutshell it’s not in the best interest of its key stakeholders. For a decade I’ve written (extensively) right here in this blog, in MacLean’s and Canadian Business and in my M&IT columns (The Last Word, Open Channel and The Provocateur) about emergent opportunities and changes the Community faces.

So why (in 2014) is the Community talking about proving value…again?

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How To Prospect And Learn What Matters The Most To Grow Business

The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity. – Captain Jean-Luc Picard, US Enterprise, 24th Century.

Let’s be honest. The 21st century is built on making money first and lots of it. To hear business leaders say something so radical today and follow through with it is probably not going to happen. It’s only after we’ve acquired enough wealth (whatever that may look like) do we consider doing something drastically different like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates et al are doing. Hmmm…did they pinch the idea from Captain Picard?

Problem

What if the thinking that got us here can’t get us to where the world is going to go next? In my last post I wrote about how preconceived notions and strongly held beliefs is an impediment to the co-evolution of business, to the next level of sustainable growth, in today’s complex and uncertain market.

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CEO’s BFF

Mention Business Events 2.0 to a CEO and watch his eyes glaze over. There aren’t any statistics (I could find) that tell us if c-level executives:

  • link the richer source of knowledge (from Business Events 2.0) back to business strategy to grow business;
  • continuously assess the value Business Events 2.0 (BE2.0) create against business goals; and
  • are involved in the decision-making of BE2.0 relevant to pulling forward-looking business knowledge.

If there were stats on this I’d wager the percentage would be in the low single digits. Continue reading