Simple Advice that Saves Time and Avoids Frustration

December 12, 2012

And it is pretty simple: Shut up and listen!

In my last post on Three Simple Questions That Foster Great Collaboration, I stated that immediately after asking one of those three questions, it was important to listen. The part about shutting up was implicit. However, I found a great TED Talk by Ernesto Sirolli titled,Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! that drives the point home.

Sirolli starts his talk with a humorous story on his well-intended, but misguided efforts he experienced in his youth to bring aid to Africa, teaching Zambian people how to grow food in what he and his compatriots found to be a very fertile valley. They were mystified that the local people had no interest in agriculture – to the point where they resorted to paying them. And even then the locals weren’t interested in showing up.

Why was such disinterest displayed by people for something that was clearly for their own good? The reason became abundantly clear one night – just as the crops had grown out perfectly and changing the, “Thank God we're here!” attitude of Sirolli and his group to one of surprise and leading them to ask, “Why didn’t you tell us?” (Watch the video to find out what happened.)

This became Ernesto Sirolli’s big lesson in listening. And he took that lesson and invented a system he calls Enterprise Facilitation. This system is all about finding out what the other person wants to do. You become a servant and find out what the other person wants to do, what they are passionate about, and then help them down that path.

Sirolli’s talk branches into working with entrepreneurs, and he offers the following secret about working with them: ”First, you have to offer them confidentiality. Otherwise they don't come and talk to you. Then you have to offer them absolute, dedicated, passionate service to them.”


Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

What Sirolli is talking about is simple enough to understand, but often implemented poorly: listening to the market – your potential customers – and serving their needs. After all, a business exists to help others, to provide products or services in exchange for money. You have to provide something of value to another person; if you don’t have enough perceived value for a broad audience, then you don’t have a viable business.

The challenge is in how to go about developing and refining your products and services – before you run out of money. Instead of making BIG BETS, it is possible to make a series of small, quick bets and discover the real truth about whether an idea or concept will work in the marketplace. I wrote about this in a post last year titled, How to Fire a Business Bullet. At its core, it all comes down to listening.

Listening will by large dividends, but all too often it is an underused tool in relationships and business (and business is really about relationships). If you really want to help someone, genuinely listening can save a lot of time and frustration!