The Listening Leader
Jamie Borstein is an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship (Class 18). Jamie is the Assistant Director of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, North America, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If Roger Schwarz had a dollar for every marital spat he’s helped me to avoid, he’d be a wealthy man.
Roger, President of Roger Schwarz and Associates, and a master of effective communication strategies, taught my class during a Winter Institute. He told us about a fabulous interaction with his wife – one that was strikingly familiar. Following a hard day at work, Roger’s wife came home venting about a problem she was facing. Roger, a natural problem solver, immediately began suggesting solutions, but his wife became increasingly irritated. Finally, she scolded him and said that she was not looking for his help solving the problem. She just wanted him to listen.
His story knocked my socks off. I thought back to various spats with my wife while debriefing our work days. Immediately I called her on my cell phone.
“Carrie, you know when you come home from work and tell me about something that is upsetting you? Do you want my help solving those problems?”
“No, Jamie,” she responded in semi-annoyed flat tone. “I just want you to listen!”
My jaw dropped. For years I had been assuming I knew what she wanted from me.
Roger taught me two valuable leadership lessons that day: First, assumptions are very often the seeds of much larger miscommunications. And second, leadership is not only knowing when it’s the right time to act, it’s also knowing when it’s the right time to listen.
Roger, my wife and I both thank you.