I was sitting with a CEO of a small chemical company over lunch yesterday. It’s someone I’ve known for a while. One of his VPs was there and told us their best sales rep was quitting and going to work for the competition.
His answer: “why didn’t I know about this?”
The VP told him he tried to tell him before, but the CEO was too busy, in meetings, or rushing out to pick up his kids. He told him, “I tried to tell you but you were just not around or available.I wrote you an email too, but I never heard back from you. I just figured you didn’t want to hear this news. Now it’s too late.”
The CEO was mad, but whose fault was it? Could it be that he made himself so unavailable that the people working with him literally had to yell in his ear to get him to listen? You can’t expect people to do backflips to get you to listen.
There’s no good answer to “why didn’t I know about this”?
I hear this question or “why didn’t you say something” a lot. If the person asking the question had just been a bit more accessible, there’d be no need for this question and a lot of problems could be avoided.
If you are someone who often asks this question, ask yourself other questions instead.
Why are you so outside of the communication loop?
Why have you made myself so unavailable that you are often missing out on important issues?
Do you have a habit of shooting the messenger?
These days, everyone appears accessible. You know their numbers, their emails. You can write an email but there’s no guarantee that it will be read. You can schedule an appointment but it might be cancelled at the last minute.
Some people act so busy that it’s really impossible for others to get their ear.
I am not saying to be open to everyone. That could be a colossal time waster. But do make yourself available to the people who have information that you need. We have to make it easier for those people to get information to us. It might mean morning meetings or a quick telephone call of a hotline for critical issues. If you schedule yourself so tightly and hold all calls and ignore emails, it’s no wonder you miss a lot of information.
I see this happen outside of work as well. You’ve seen those people reading a book, listening to their i-pods, walking in the streets on the way to work. They don’t necessarily miss out on critical information, but they do miss a lot and might even be headed for some kind of accident.
What they do miss are the small things that could bring them so much more joy–even more joy than the book they are reading or the tunes they’ve heard so many times before. Don’t they want to see the people in the streets, the flowers, the birds, the traffic lights? I guess not.
In my gym, there is an American guy whom I’ve never seen without his big earphones. I really think he wears them in the shower too. I overheard him tell a friend how hard it is for him to meet women in Japan. Huh? I wanted to tell him to open his eyes, take off his earphones and he’d see that there are a lot of women in the gym, but I said nothing [wisely].
I can’t help but think that if I told him this, his answer would be “why didn’t I know about this?” Duh.
Missing out on something? Think about what you might be doing to discourage people telling you. What purpose does that serve for you?