Are You Hearing Voices?

November 13, 2016By Industry Intuition, Views

by Dave Wendland, as seen in HealthCare Distributor magazine, Out of the Box column

September/October 2016

My mother used to always advise me to listen to the little voice in my head before making a final decision. She certainly couldn’t predict that what was once just a single, little voice would now be joined by multiple voices coming at us full volume from multiple broadcast, online, and print outlets, and internet reviews from virtually every angle.

Looking back, I generally listened to my inner voice (my conscience) as I made critical life decisions or weighed the pros and cons of a particular situation. Of course it goes without saying that there were times when I ignored that voice which resulted in some regrets. Mom would simply remind me to trust the voice in my head and use it as a guidepost.

So what about today’s voices?

Are we truly listening to them and seeking to understand what they are telling us, or are we ignoring their existence which may be fueled by our own stubbornness, unwillingness to accept new information, or the attitude that the status quo is where we intend to remain. My caution is that there are likely nuggets of very useful feedback and insights in each and every voice.

Let me offer an example where voices were likely not heard. Yahoo had been approached about acquiring Google in 1998 … for a number of reasons they chose not to pursue it (as did many others at that early stage of Google). However, according to reports, Yahoo once again had the opportunity to purchase Google for $5 billion in 2002. Was there some little voice that told the company to avoid this acquisition, or was it simply too early in Google’s eventual — but speedy — evolution?

As the story goes, Yahoo was nearly able to acquire the popular social network, Facebook, in 2006 for $1 billion but due to a faltering stock price, Yahoo lowered its offer to $850 million, allowing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to walk away from the deal. There should have been voices — and eyebrows — raised since this was the beginning of yet another sea change within the internet world.

In 2008, the Redmond, Washington, software giant Microsoft, eager to compete with Google, was willing to pay $44 billion for Yahoo, but thanks to what many considered gross incompetence, Yahoo’s board rejected the offer. Do you think there were some voices yelling advice to the Yahoo management?

Ultimately, in 2016, Yahoo has successfully been acquired by Verizon for less than $5 billion. It’s important to keep in mind that Yahoo was once the king of the internet search engines, a $125 billion behemoth as big in its time as Facebook or Google are today. There were likely many voices ignored as Yahoo continued its tailspin and lost its way.

There are numerous individuals who will point to failed leadership within the company. According to an excellent article in Forbes magazine last November — as Yahoo was “on the auction block” — Marissa Mayer’s leadership shortcomings may have been part of the problem. The author suggested that, “Perhaps Mayer’s biggest failure is the ability to unlearn. Many leaders are very skilled at challenging the thoughts and opinions of others, but are woefully inept when it comes to challenging their own thinking. The reality is that it takes no effort to cling to your current thinking; however to change your mind requires you to challenge your mind.”

It is perhaps this stubbornness that doesn’t allow other ideas to percolate, or prevents some individuals from listening to understand while colleagues offer their unique perspective. However, I also feel that those who are voicing opinions have a responsibility to make themselves heard. If a message isn’t being well-received or even heard, repeating it more loudly will not make it any better understood.

This brings me back to my mother. She was indeed a remarkable lady; a true champion with outstanding leadership skills. If she wanted to get my attention or share an opinion, she would reiterate her point several times several different ways until she felt confident that she had been heard. Honestly, I can still hear her voice today. And I’m thankful that she is one of the voices I rely on before, during, and after decisions are made.

What voices are you listening to? Are you truly heeding the advice that is being shared or are you falling victim to reliance on your own gut alone and perhaps clinging to your own thinking?