Italian entrepreneur coach Ernesto Sirolli gives this advice to leaders: “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen.” That was the title of his 2012 talk at a TEDx conference in New Zealand.
To illustrate, he shared a story about a failed attempt to help Zambian farmers. The farmers were actually shepherds—growing nothing—in a valley with good soil and sufficient rain to grow crops that could upgrade their standard of living significantly.
The locals showed little interest in planting crops, so eventually Sirolli’s team planted and grew tomatoes for them, to demonstrate the potential. The tomatoes did well and the team expected the Zambians to enthusiastically follow suit. They didn’t.
The reason became clear when the hippos from a nearby river decided the tomato plants would make a great salad and made a night raid on the field, leaving nothing but…well, you know what hippos leave behind.
The Zambians were not surprised and probably amused. After all, they knew what would happen to any crops planted in the valley. When Sirolli’s team asked why they had not been warned, the villagers’ response was: “You didn’t ask.”
I think the story makes the point without any amplification on my part. So I think I’ll just shut up and listen to your comments about this post. Maybe I’ll learn something.
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© Copyright 2015 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company.
"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
Kouzes & Posner
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