Leaders Hear the Quietest Voices

little voice
Do you?  In the midst of all the noise around you, the demands, the suggestions, the responsibilities, the bags you are left holding…can you, like Horton, hear the Who? It’s one of the biggest challenges we have as leaders. I call it Inertia. We get caught up in the way we do things; we get so stuck in the repetition of what we’re doing that we can miss the flags alerting us that change needs to happen! And we can miss the whispers of wisdom floating just below the din because they might be originating from an unlikely source.
For the past few years, Leah, my youngest, had issues finishing her lunch at school. You see, lunch takes place right before recess, causing kids to rush through and “finish” their lunch as fast as possible – which translates to many students throwing half of it away. Why? It’s simple math: shorter lunch = longer recess.
“Why can’t lunch be after recess?” my daughter lamented one evening at dinner. Oddly enough, earlier that day, NPR had an article about that very topic – and wouldn’t you know it, schools that were implementing this switch to recess before lunch were seeing much higher success rates in afternoon attention! I encouraged my daughter to bring her idea to the school principal. She didn’t want to at first. “What can I do, Dad? I’m just a student! I can’t do that! They’ll never listen to me.”
Maybe.  Maybe not.
So we coached her on how to get an appointment. She practiced her argument and rehearsed her thoughts until she built up the courage to act. She set up a meeting with the principal, by herself, and presented her idea: why she thought recess should come first. She shared the NPR article as supporting evidence. That was last year.
Well, guess what? This year they announced a revolutionary schedule change and moved recess before lunch!
Yes, you can bet I am one proud papa, but the real kudos go to the principal. She took a meeting with one of the younger students in her school, listened to her ideas, and let those ideas affect her own leadership strategies in a way that served the students more than the inertia. That kind of humility allowed positive change to flourish at her school!  She both heard and listened to the quiet voice and found value.
Leaders, are we open and receptive to suggestions from our team – even from the quietest voices?