One of the most common elements of the comeback I’ve heard from leaders and rising stars around the world is the art of listening. Yes, I do refer to listening as an “art.” It requires discipline, dedication and practice. It doesn’t make a sound…yet it produces lovely moments and amazing results.
Do you listen as often as you should? Really listen? When was the last time to listened to yourself and appreciated the value of your own thoughts and reflections?
Too many of us are caught up in the mad rush of the Digital Age. We don’t listen, we text. We post on Facebook and scan the comments. We nod our heads when someone is talking while thinking about what we have to get done this afternoon. We pay to hear someone speak, then whisper back-and-forth with the person next to us. We attend important meetings and engage instead with our Blackberries. Many consider listening an endangered skill.
Yes, listening is an art. And listening can be a tremendous asset to your comeback.
Anne Mulcahy tells a great comeback story. She was the president of the other X. Not XanGo. Xerox.
In the year 2000, Xerox was on top of the world. The company was growing and profitable. The future was rosy.
Yet, in late 1999, Xerox’s circuits were getting overloaded. The company had tried to grow too fast. The world economy weakened. Competition for Xerox stiffened. And Xerox had to admit to decisions Anne Mulcahy called “not so good.”
You ever do that?
Inside Xerox they called it the perfect storm. By May, 2000 they were in deep trouble. To hear Anne tell it, “revenue and profits were declining. Cash on hand was shrinking. Debt was mounting. Customers were irate. Employees were defecting. Shareholders saw the market collapsing. “ Chaos.
It was then, that Anne was appointed president and chief operating officer. Congratulations captain, now pilot us through the perfect storm.
Xerox was on its way to a $273 million annual loss. And that’s after a considerable investment in becoming a “computer company.” At one point an overwhelmed Mulcahy pulled her car off to the side of the road and let the traffic pass by. “I don’t know what to do,” she said. “I don’t know what to do.”
Ever feel like that? All of us have.
Anne pulled herself together and got back to work. Xerox got humble in a hurry. They spent time with customers. Time with employees. Time with industry experts.
And how did Xerox turn it around? They listened! Xerox’s prospects and customers led the way. They told Xerox how they would re-engage, what they liked and what they wanted to see change.
And all of that listening helped achieve a miracle for Xerox. The next year they dramatically cut their losses. In a few short years, Xerox doubled its equity, increased earnings, fattened bank accounts and started buying back its stock. Now, it earns billions by being the kind of business it is supposed to be…and continuing to listen.
Listening is a great investment. Each one of us could all be a lot more successful if we would listen. Listening saves careers, companies and even marriages.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote, “It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”
In this series of blog posts, we’re discussing stories and elements of real-life comebacks from leaders and rising stars around the world. I welcome you to join the discussion by adding your comments or email me with your comeback stories.