The art of conversation lies in listening (Malcom Forbes)
I was raised with the old-fashioned notion that, "Empty vessels make the most noise." If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, it suggests you should only speak when you have something important to say. Or, if you prefer, people who talk a lot often don’t say very much at all.
I realised just how much the modern world was at odds with this idea a few years ago, when I overheard a colleague criticizing a consultant who had attended an advisory board meeting but had not said very much at all. I think that – if truth be told – the few words the consultant had offered were insightful, intelligent and possibly the most productive words uttered throughout the day. However, for most of the meeting he had simply nodded his head sagely and – as a result – he was never invited to one of our meetings again.
Clearly, many people who talk a lot do so because they know a lot. However, the converse is not true, and that is the fact that appears to be increasingly overlooked in our loud-and-proud society. I think this is a problem because there is a growing perception that an ability to talk loudly makes a person more qualified or knowledgeable, when in fact the thinkers in our groups are probably the ones we should be encouraging to share their views.
This is why I found Adrian Hanrahan, Managing Director of Robinson Brothers, so refreshing to talk to this month. In our interview Made in the UK (Inspired by Rugby), Adrian says he’s inspired by his younger employees, and he is open to being guided by people in their 20s when it comes to dealing with the Millennial generation that will obviously form a large part of our industry in the future. Adrian engages with his employees on all levels, walking the floor and taking an interest in their views. This type of engagement builds dedication and loyalty, which can only be a good thing for his company, its employees and its customers.
Readers of this magazine comprise the upper echelons of the speciality chemicals world, and I know these leaders of industry recognise the value of surrounding themselves with good, reliable people who represent their companies’ standards and values. Many strong leaders are described as ‘charismatic’, although charisma is often said to be an ineffable quality – you either have it or don't. But it's actually fairly easy to break down many of the key factors that make someone charismatic. They include things like confidence, exuberance, a ready smile, expressive and friendly body language, and an ability to listen to and engage with others.
The art of conversation may lie in listening, but so – strangely enough – does the art of leading.
Thanks for listening!
Sarah Harding, PhD
Editor – Speciality Chemicals Magazine