Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Listening Leaders Assess Audacious Actions

Listening Leaders assess the call for audacious actions as they understand talk is cheap but actions are potentially costly. Speakers' calls for action may be beneficial, or not. They may be productive, or counter productive. They may be profitable, or not. Ultimately, they may be desirable, or not. On the other hand, talk with no action is cheap and may only waste the listener's time.

As a consequence, wise listeners understand, focus on, audit and assess speakers proposed calls for end actions. Although Thomas Huxley argued, "The great end of life is not knowledge, but action" Listening Leaders® know better. The simple fact remains, not all action is productive, profitable, or desirable. Thus, the listener's unending task is to carefully audit and assess all calls for action. Especially calls for audacious actions.

For when faced with any speaker's call for action, prudent listeners will reflect on the timeless wisdom of William Wordsworth, who wrote: "Action is transitory, —a step, a blow, the motion of a muscle, this way or that— 'Tis done, and in the after-vacancy we wonder at ourselves like men betrayed: Suffering is permanent, obscure and dark, and shares the nature of infinity."

In listening to the recent multitude of calls for action by our elected representatives, it seems wise to remember Walt Whitman's poem, "Song of the Broad Axe", wherein he wrote, "Where the populace rise at once against the never-ending audacity of elected persons." Simply put, in times of challenge, it behooves all Listening Leaders® to listen through to the end conclusion of every significant call for action, real or imagined. Tough times demand listening beyond simplistic sound bytes. Whatever the situation or the source of message, difficult situations require listening to the real costs and benefits of any proposed actions. Ultimately, listeners face the unending task of moving beyond speaker's promises. Words are cheap, but actions can be costly. For as a wise man once said, "Listen beyond the words, watch and weigh the action." More than 300 years ago, John Locke wrote: "Good and evil, reward and punishment, are the only motives of a rational creature; these are the spur and reins whereby all mankind are set on work, and guided. The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts." Thus, it remains, it is always time to audit and assess the calls for audacious actions.

KNOWLEDGE NUGGET: Listening Leaders Listen Beyond Words by Focusing On Actions.

In assessing all calls for action, it is important to consider the speakers' objective, motive, potential benefit and driving cause. All serious students of listening will remember Aristotle's claim, "Every action must be due to one or other of seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, or appetite."

Believing that all human actions are due to either the force of emotion or reason, Aristotle provided a useful road map in considering the seven causes of action:

1. Chance events consist of "The things that happen by chance are all those whose cause cannot be determined, that have no purpose, and that happen neither always nor usually in any fixed way."

2. Nature events consist of "Those things that happen by nature which have a fixed and internal cause; they take place uniformly, either always or usually."

3. Compulsion includes "Those things that happen through compulsion which take place contrary to the desire or reason of the doer, yet through his own agency."

4. Habit leads to unthinking action as, "Habit, whether acquired by mere familiarity or by effort, belongs to the class of pleasant things, for there are many actions not pleasant which men perform with pleasure, once they become used to them."

5. Reasoning results in "Actions that are due to reasoning when they appear useful either as ends or as means to an end, and are performed for that reason." To that end, Aristotle believed that when we act in a fashion that we believe is rational, we also believe it is good and desirable.

6. Anger is often viewed as a passion that leads to revenge focused action unless there is no prospect of vengeance. Aristotle believed, "To passion and anger are due all acts of revenge…no one grows angry with a person on whom there is no prospect of taking vengeance."

7. Appetite, or the craving of pleasure, is related to all actions that result in pleasure. Aristotle believed that wealth or poverty is not in and of itself a cause for action, the appetite for wealth may motivate the call for action. "Nor, again, is action due to wealth or poverty; it is of course true that poor men, being short of money do have an appetite for it, and that rich men, being able to command needless pleasures, do have an appetite for such pleasures: but their actions will be due not to wealth or poverty but to appetite."

Claimed or not, when Listening Leaders® consider the cause of every call for action the underlying motivation of the speaker will become clearer. For in the words of an old Proverb, most things are "Easier said than done."

TIP OF THE WEEK: Consider the Underlying Causes For the Claimed Need For Action.


  • The number of those who undergo the fatigue of judging for themselves is very small indeed ~ Richard Brinsley Sheridan
  • For purposes of action nothing is more useful than narrowness of thought combined with energy of will ~ Henri Frédéric Amiel
  • There will be time to audit the accounts later, there will be sunlight later, and the equation will come out at last ~ Louis Macneice
  • That action alone is just that does not harm either party to a dispute ~ Mohandas Gandhi
  • Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought ~ Henri Bergson
  • I love the valiant; but it is not enough to wield a broadsword, one must also know against whom ~ Nietzche
  • Action and faith enslave thought, both of them in order not to be troubled or inconvenienced by reflection, criticism and doubt ~ Henri Frédéric Amiel
  • When you see a snake, never mind where he came from ~ W. G. Benham


David Letterman prides himself as a "Man of Action" and proudly shared the following story: "I was walking to work up on Sixth Avenue when I saw one of those mime performers. The mime was doing that famous routine where he was pretending to be trapped in a box. So I stood there and watched the mime pretend to be trapped in a box. When he finished, I thanked God he wasn't really trapped in a box. But I saw on the sidewalk that he's got a little hat for money. You know, change, tips, donations, and contributions. So I went over and pretended to put a dollar in his hat."

The mime was probably just happy that Letterman did not call the District Attorney or write a check!


Congratulations and Kudos to Chief Imagineer Mike, and President Lisa Rivard, of the Minnesota based Rivard Companies. Lisa and Mike are both focused Listening Leaders who believe in taking meaningful action to enhance listening within their bustling organization.

Since 1989 Mike and Lisa have expanded Rivard Companies from a modest local Minnesota tree removal and trimming service, into a significant colorized wood chip mulch producer, a land erosion control product manufacturer, an efficient ECO-Bale mulch delivery operation, and, the producer of a full line of Gronomics gardening products. In the process they have served landscapers and gardeners throughout the land as they also contribute to building a better environment. Obviously the future is unlimited for these hard working young professionals who are committed to listening and taking meaningful action in serving their nationwide customers and focused employees. We salute Mike and Lisa Rivard!

Listen, Lead On & Make Today Count! – Manny & Rick

Thanks to Listening Leaders