Tag Archives: listening

Don’t Think Before You Talk

Don’t Think Before You Talk

By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.

When I landed my sales job at US Surgical several years ago, I was so excited!  US Surgical’s sales force was known for being an elite group of sales professionals.  One financial article described us as the “Green Berets” of surgical device sales persons.  We loved that!

Shortly after I had completed my training, my manager decided to do a customary three-day field visit.  I felt obligated to take him to my largest account to show him what great progress I was making there.  We were able to get in front of one of the busier surgeons where I proceeded to demonstrate my incredible communication skill by asking a well-articulated open-ended question.  And, thanks to my excellent ability to ask a thought-provoking open-ended question, the surgeon obliged with a long eloquent answer.  I was so impressed with my ability to ask such a great question, I couldn’t wait to dazzle my manager with another open-ended gem.  So instead of listening to what the surgeon was saying, I was mentally crafting that next gem.  As soon as the surgeon finally quit talking (it took him quite a while because I had asked such a great question), I unloaded my next one.  After I asked it, I was shocked to see the puzzled looks on the face of both my manager and the surgeon.  What was wrong with them?  Were they blind to my superior communication skill?


Thank goodness my manager was there to bail me out!  I had thrown away all the information the surgeon had provided (and my credibility) by ignoring everything he had said, much of which needed further conversation, by asking a second question that took us in an entirely different direction!  As soon as we finished our meeting, my manager helped me learn and develop by demonstrating the skill of candid feedback.  His major emphasis was on one thing:  LISTEN!

Effective listening is part of effective leadership.  Here is an idea for you to try:  Don’t think before you talk.  The next time you are in a conversation with another person, make sure everything you say is based on the last sentence spoken by the other person.  Most people don’t really listen.  Like me in the story above, instead of listening, most people are busy thinking about what they are going to say next while the other person is talking.  Responding to the specific things the other person is saying could take your conversations to a higher level and enhance your leadership effectiveness.

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Effective Leadership is Music to My Ears

Effective Leadership is Music to My Ears

by Bill Auxier, Ph.D.

One of my best friends, someone I’ve known my entire life, is a prominent dentist in Ohio.  As kids we played together, went to school together, played on the same sports teams together; we had many adventures together.  We went to different colleges and chose different career paths.  He earned his DDS and I earned my PhD.  We both raised two children, both having one boy and one girl.  Now we’re both empty nesters and continue to enjoy each other’s friendship.

While in the fourth grade, both of us took piano lessons from Mrs. Watson, the music teacher at our school.  Her house was right across the street from the school which is where she gave piano lessons in her living room.  Our lessons just happened to be on the same day, one right after the other.  When Mrs. Watson realized what great friends we were, she came up with the brilliant idea that we should take our lessons together at the same time.  We were all in!

During one of those lessons, my buddy missed a note while playing.  Mrs. Watson was always eager to provide feedback and instruction, so took this opportunity to ask my lesson-mate the name of the missed note.  He didn’t answer, but instead simply sat on the piano bench in silence.  Finding the silence uncomfortable, I gave him a quick glance.  I immediately recognized the look:  a combination of frustration and anger, covered by a thick layer of stubbornness.  Mrs. Watson was not deterred, reminding my friend that she knew he was playing the sousaphone in the school band whose music was written in bass clef (the same as the now infamous missed note).  We sat there in silence in Mrs. Watson’s living room, the only sound being the ticking of some distant clock, the rest of the lesson.  Mrs. Watson could be stubborn too.  Two stubborn individuals in a stand-off, and one uncomfortable fourth grader observing this historical stand-off, afraid to move or breathe. Not long after that, neither of us were taking piano lessons.  Both of us continued to play musical instruments in the school band, but Mrs. Watson had black-balled us from following in the piano playing footsteps of Ferrante and Teicher!


I always chuckle when I reminisce about that fatalistic piano lesson in Mrs. Watson’s living room, and of course, that makes me think about leadership.

Effective leaders are great listeners and learners, possess excellent language and motor skills and have good memories.  Researchers at Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience Lab have conducted numerous studies that have examined the relationship between early music education and language, aptitude, hearing ability, learning ability, listening skills, motor skills and memory.

One study looked at adults between the ages of 55 and 76 who took music lessons for a minimum of four years as children.  What they found was that regardless as the whether they continued with music or not, there was a clear relationship between those music lessons and language aptitude, hearing, learning ability and memory.  Study participants with 4 to 14 years of music training during their youth scored even higher on those same skills.  Other studies indicate that learning a practicing music, even at advanced years, may help improve listening skills, memory skills and motor skills.

Regardless of what your music education experience may or may not have been as a youth, pick up a musical instrument and start playing or start singing along!  Music will enhance skills that enhance your leadership effectiveness, and that will be music not only to your ears, but to everyone’s ears around you!  Thank you Mrs. Watson!

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