[IMGCAP(1)]While reflecting on a telephone call with the Senate Democratic Campaign Chairman, George Smathers, on Saturday, Nov. 23, 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson said, “You don’t learn anything when you’re talking.”
The day before this conversation, President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated, and LBJ was thrust into presidency. On the first full day of LBJ’s presidency, he consumed as much information as he could in order to absorb the enormity of the situation, according to the best-selling biography, “The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon B. Johnson,” by Robert Caro. He need to determine how to deal with the outrage and emotions that consumed the people in the United States, how to show the world that the transition of power was seamless, how to encourage the Kennedy followers to now follow the new president, and lastly how to strategize the best way to pass the Kennedy policy legacy through the legislature.
These were all very difficult, divisive and sensitive subjects that, with any wrong move, could have ended in the loss of millions of lives (literally, with the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile crisis occurring less than a year prior).
Now, within our accounting practices, millions of lives are rarely at risk, but the stakes, for us and our teams, are often high. The actions we follow typically determine the success or failure that result. In order to ensure our actions develop the best results in the most appropriate manner, it is vital that as CPAs we listen to our resources to enhance our decision-making skills. Listening to those around provides us with varied perspectives, differing solutions and an abundance of suggestions. We may decide against using the information that was provided, but at the very least, our perspectives have been broadened.
In order to maximize our ability to gain perspective and listen, below are four steps to help focus on key points when listening to clients, colleagues, or staff:
1. Stop talking: Plain and simple. Pose a question, set the atmosphere, and let your colleagues speak. Good, bad, indifferent allow them to have the microphone. Ensure they are focused on the task at hand, but let your colleague control the conversation so that you can focus on analyzing how this information will fit in your plan.
2. Acknowledgement: Restate in your own words what your colleague said to you. In doing so, your colleague will be confident that their advice has been accepted, and you will be confident that you are picking up on the information that someone else is providing to you. Acknowledging the receipt of information means that the dispenser of the information has been afforded the opportunity to showcase an opinion. The opinion is respected upon acknowledgement.
3. Dig deeper: By asking why or how, you show your colleague that you genuinely care about their perspective. These questions reflect that you are interested and want to further understand their perspective and insights. While you ask inquisitive questions, gradually change the tone of the conversation to ensure that the topics and thoughts being provided are specific to the issues that are of your greatest concern.
4. Internalize the issues: At the end of the discussion, reflect on the opinions, and sort through what issues, concerns, ideas and insights are integral to your decision. At the same time, “archive” the information that did not apply. As you internalize the ideas that can work for your cause, find a way to incorporate them as your own. At the end of the day, if you as the decision maker fail to own your ideas, your results will not meet your expectations.
LBJ listened, analyzed and made decisions. By removing his outlook and taking in the information from the experts that surrounded him, he was able to unite his administration, unite the country, and prove to the world the power of the president did not lie with one person. Regardless of your power, your ego and your sense of command, your trusted colleague, your client or your staff will see the task at hand differently and may just have the solution that you were looking for.
President Johnson was able to listen, and so can you!
Adam Blitz, CPA, is a tax and consulting manager at Wiebe Hinton Hambalek, LLP in Fresno, Calif. Along with his CPA, Adam has a Masters of Arts in Leadership Studies from Fresno Pacific University. Adam authored a thesis entitled, "The Leading CPA—the value of the leading CPA." Adam is focused on working with his clients, colleagues, and industry professionals in enhancing the value of the CPA. For additional information, he can be contacted at Adamb@whhcpas.com or via Twitter @getblitzed.