J.W. Marriott, Jr. is Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Marriott International, Inc., the largest lodging company in the world.  In this excerpt,  he captures the essence of listening. 

When was the last time you sat down with another human being and listened — truly listened — to what he or she had to say? A two-minute chat in the cafeteria doesn’t count. Nor do 10 late-night minutes spent racing through the family business before you and your spouse both conk out. I’m talking about a good old-fashioned “heart-to-heart.”

A luxury, you say? An absolute necessity, I say. Especially for leaders. And especially today. In our fast-paced age, the art of good listening is probably the most important skill a manager can master.

My father, J. Willard Marriott, kept his executive staff waiting on many occasions while he sat on a hotel lobby sofa counseling a housekeeper or cook about a family or work problem. Far from being a waste of time, he considered such chats an investment in his company’s future. He knew that a troubled employee couldn’t deliver top-notch customer service. Simply by taking time to listen, Dad found himself surrounded by employees willing to put 110% effort on the job. The pay-off was tremendous: happier employees, satisfied customers, and a successful company.

In this hurry-up world, it can be tempting to cut short conversations, or use e-mail and voice-mail to avoid interacting with real people. My advice would be: don’t do it. You risk too much by failing to take the time to connect with those upon whose shoulders ultimately your business succeeds or fails. The next time someone stops you in the hall with a worried expression and asks: “Do you have a minute?” say yes, find a sofa, and then give liberally of your time.  Chances are you’ll be glad you did.

Source:  J. W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr.

CALL FOR ACTION: Give the gift that keeps on giving.

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