There are many voices that pervade the space between the ears of every business leader. From employees, to boards of directors, and even our own imagination can overload the auditory channels. Deciding whom to listen to can sometimes be the hardest decision a CEO has to make. These voices in our heads can make it very tough to clearly think, but they also can be a great source of education.
I always enjoy the conversations that I have because I can learn from them. Using every opportunity to learn is one of the greatest assets of any business leader. One of the best informants can be from deep within yourself, too. Your gut has a way of leading and teaching the best type of lessons.
The importance of having instincts and listening to your gut cannot be overstated. What is more: being open to the universe, and the little whispers that it gives, along with the people who get put in your path to just give you that little piece of, “I’m hearing that with new ears today,” can be invaluable. Sometimes, those new ears can be the exact people you are servicing. Your clients can, and often should be, the people you’re listening to the most.
CEO of Children’s Hospital in Detroit, Luanne Thomas Ewald, knows all about this and does it well. She has been in charge of the hospital for a few years now and has been working to create a Disney-like atmosphere for her patients. She knows there are a million other things these children and their parents want to be doing other than being at her hospital, and so she is trying to make it just a touch more comfortable.
When the hospital was making plans for a new building in a suburb of Detroit, they had their plans all mapped out and construction was ready to begin. Then she felt a nudge, a little whisper, and she asked the children what they thought of the new building, showing them the renderings for it. The beautiful rendered slate, stone and steel building was shown, and the kids weren’t impressed—some, even scared.
Then she got the best question, “Why can’t you make it look like Legos? Because I would feel like I would want to go in a building that looked like Legos.” And, as the Psalmist says, “out of the mouth of babes…thou hast ordained strength.”
It was in this moment that Ewald says she, “…just had to pause for a minute instead of driving things so quickly and, you know, don’t have things just based upon my feelings.” She heard what her customers were saying and she listened. She is teaching us all an invaluable lesson.
As a CEO, sometimes we can believe that we know what is best. We believe that our market research and advisors will put us into the best possible situation for success. This is mostly true, or else we wouldn’t do the research or have these people as advisors. But, sometimes, the best voices come from the people whom we are servicing.
In summary, Luanne teaches and inspires us all by inspiring us:
- To be open to the universe, and the little whispers that it gives.
- That the best voices come from those whom we are servicing.
- To stop and re-evaluate our plans, even when timing doesn’t seem to allow it.
Our business has to be about our ideal clients. Their patterns and habits—but also their voices. If you want to continue to taste success, you have to lend your ear to them. Get to know them and their true wants. Take it to heart and build your business. Your board of advisors and employees will be grateful at the end of the day, and you’ll find satisfaction that is more than just numbers on a run sheet—you’ll find something much more personal.
To hear more about the Detroit Children’s Hospital and how to listen to the voices of our clients you can listen to my interview with Luanne on the Think Big Podcast here.