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MCLELLAN: What’s your heart telling you?


“You will understand

Listen with your heart

You will understand

Let it break upon you

Like a wave upon the sand

Listen with your heart

You will understand”

And so spoke the great marketing philosopher Grandmother Willow in Walt Disney Pictures’ “Pocahontas,” as she sang a song called “Listen with Your Heart.”

In the movie, Pocahontas is at a point in her life when she needs to make some big choices, which are going to mean big change. She turns to one of her mentors, Grandmother Willow, for counsel and is offered sage wisdom in return. “Listen with your heart.”

When was the last time that you, as a business leader or owner, did that?

I think there’s a vital marketing lesson for all of us in that song. I believe we are surrounded by our own Grandmother Willows, if we bother to listen. But in the frantic pace of the day it’s easy to tune out anything that doesn’t check a box off the to-do list. Here are a few worth listening to.

Your customers: What do they talk to you about? What are they worried about? What kinds of questions do they ask repeatedly? More important, what is behind those questions? When you listen with your heart, you will hear the emotions behind the questions and be able to soothe their worries, celebrate their victories and see how you can be even more valuable to them in the future.

Your teammates: No one knows your business or your customers better. They’re going to be the first ones to notice trends or patterns that are probably worth noting. If they don’t know how to really listen with their hearts (or have learned how to tune it out like you have), teach them. Help them learn how to spot a clue and probe a little to see where it goes. Help them rediscover their curiosity.

The trends: I’m not talking about being a trendsetter. I’m suggesting that you become a good observer of behavior. For example, as camera phones became more popular and people were snapping photos and uploading them instantaneously to social network sites, if I were in the camera business, I’d be thinking about how I could reinvent myself.

What seems random but isn’t: As a general rule, I think we’re a little obtuse. Fortunately, we’re not so disconnected that we’re hopeless. Have you noticed the odd phenomenon that when you’re car shopping, suddenly all you see on the road are cars of the same make and model that you want? That’s how our brains work – they filter out the noise and show us just the relevant stuff.

Which means when an idea or concept seems to keep bubbling up to our conscious level, we need to stop and pay attention. Don’t just dismiss it. Think of it like a rogue thread. Tug on it a little and see where it leads you.

Start by watching and reigniting your curiosity. Ask a lot of “I wonder why” questions. Then, get your team together and decide how you want to incorporate this listening habit into your internal conversations. How will you report out to each other so that your individual observations become part of the collective wisdom of your team?

And don’t force it. If you get in the habit of listening, the insights will come. Remember what Grandmother Willow taught us. “Let it break upon you like a wave upon the sand.”

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