Many years ago I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity for a massive career change. I had spent a lot of years working a business that was financially very rewarding and allowed me to travel and see new things however it was hard work and very challenging so along came this new venture and I embarked on something I truly knew nothing about. I was to slip into my hi-vis, steel caps and hard hat and learn how to operate a steel slitting line. I am not going to go into what that is here – if you are interested head to google. Anyhoo I had many trainers in my new role however one was a stand out and taught me more on how to work in this new environment that anyone else and he did it with only one word – listen. Yep, that was it. Just listen. This was a noisy bit of gear but his advice could prevent major fuck ups that would take hours to fix. By simply listening to how the machine was working, how the slits were running and how the many different parts of the machine were interacting you could hear how well it was running or not.
I think about that a lot. The power of listening. We spend a lot of our time thinking we are great listeners when we are probably just listening in order to respond. How many times are you responding to the odd “how are you?” when the person who enquired as to your well-being starts telling you about how shit their morning was too. You didn’t even have to ask them….they asked you how you were and here you are listening to them bang on.
So fast forward many years and I am back at work full-time in a great role that challenges me and working with a diverse group of people who I find easy to like. And I love listening to them. They all have a story and each of those is unique and special and I feel truly grateful for every one of those that I get to hear – even the ones that are heartbreaking, confronting and hard to comprehend – so thankful for the sharing.
Some of my best times at work happen at the coffee machine – my boss jokingly calls me Jabber Jaws and to be honest at first it really got to me – because that’s my kryptonite, throw away comments said in jest that my broad shoulders look like they can handle. I see it as a massive compliment now – whether he does or not, jury is still out. I look at the amount of people I know in such a short time, the relationships I have started and the conversations I have had are all invaluable to me. My role requires me to be able to speak to people – if I can’t do that then I am ineffective. So I will continue to take the time for a jib jab and be genuinely interested in what people have to tell me. And if I listen well, like I was taught by the great Ross McDougall, I will also be able to tell if those people are running well or if they are about to unravel. Maybe we all need to carry a big Emergency Stop button just in case.