The Importance of Listening to Your Team

As many of you know, my son is a Lego building master. If you saw my inspirational video about being a creative, you know what I’m talking about. He has come a long way since then. I’m amazed at what this little kid comes up with. He’ll look at the cover of a Lego set at the Lego Store then go home and use the disparate pieces he has to create something almost identical to what he saw at the store earlier that day. He truly is gifted.

The official Lego Arc Starfighter Kit.

Every morning I play with him for about an hour and our play time is always building Legos. I’ve become his assistant. Whenever he needs a block, he’ll sound an alarm and I’ll go “Yes sir.” He’ll then give me orders of what Lego piece to find and give him. I’m in awe as I watch him work.

Bubbie's ad hoc Arc Starfighter created from memory using disparate pieces.

But as amazingly talented he is, he is not infallible. Every now and then his creations don’t hold up as strong as he’d like. And this is where my story (and today’s lesson) truly begins.

It was one fine day and I was assisting him in the construction of a Star Wars space ship. No wait. I think it was a truck. I forget. That’s not important. Whatever it was, I noticed him putting together a section of the spaceship/truck/whatever and there was a load-bearing piece on the bottom that I noticed wasn’t optimally situated. Imagine two large rectangular Lego pieces then a third long thinner piece snapped to the bottom to hold them together. The natural thing to do here is connect that long piece in such a way that half of it overlaps one large rectangular piece, and the other half overlaps the other rectangular piece. That way the weight is evenly distributed. But he didn’t do that. Let’s say it was ten-dot by two-dot piece. He had eight dots snapped to one rectangular piece and only two to the other.

Now, admittedly I’m not as talented as he is at Lego building. But I had a bad feeling about this. I suspected that once he finished building this thing, the unbalanced load-bearing Lego would give. I started to tell him about it and he got visibly upset. (He doesn’t like to be bothered or told what to do when he is in “the zone.”) The more I tried to explain to him why he needed to change what he was doing, the more frustrated he got. So, I gave up (but silently praying that nothing would go wrong.)

Well, about an hour or so later when he was playing with the completed spaceship/truck/whatever, I heard a crash and then a yell. My wife and I raced to ground zero. As I suspected, the unbalanced load-bearing Lego piece gave under the weight and the whole thing fell apart. I very calmly got down on his level and explained, “Remember what daddy was telling you about an hour or so ago. Well, you see, daddy was right.” (I know. I’m terrible. I was basically telling my six-year-old, “See, I told you so.”)

Listening Lesson

The lesson here is simple: you need to listen to the people on your team. I don’t care how amazingly talented you are at your craft, everyone on your team has something they can contribute. Don’t let stubbornness, pride, shortsightedness or even jealousy keep you from hearing and seriously considering input from those who are working for you. Here are some great tips for doing that.

  • Surround Yourself with Terrific Talent. When putting your team together (and by team that could be employees, subcontractors, a film crew, a commercial photo shoot crew, etc.) recruit the best you can. It’s easier to listen to and trust those around you when you respect their talent and trust their abilities.
  • Create an Environment Where Ideas Can be Shared. Make sure you foster an environment where team members 1) know they have the freedom to share ideas and 2) can be confident those ideas will be listened to and considered. That could start with something as simple as just saying up front that’s the kind of environment you’ve established. But then you have to live it out. If you consistently shoot down people’s ideas, ignore them, or give off an aura of stubbornness, your team members will be less inclined to share ideas.
  • Reward Great Ideas. When people on your team do deliver great ideas that pay off, reward them. Rewards can be financial, but they don’t have to be. It could be as simple as public praise in front of the team or on your blog. It could be more responsibility. Be creative.

The more you listen to your team and give them freedom to grow in their skills, the more successful your organization will be and there’s no limit to what you can build together.

Space fortress with rotating laser turrets and satellite dishes.

3 thoughts on “The Importance of Listening to Your Team

  1. Thanks Ron! This post really hit home for me. I know that “crash” feeling that your son felt. I am always overconfident, so I forget to listen to people sometimes. Then when I crash, I realize “Shoot! Now I have to make some apologies.” Oh also, that rotating laser turret is GENIUS! 🙂

Comments are closed.