Listen to your Constituents

By Ken Sweeney

After watching President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last week it reminded me of an important lesson in life and in business….always listen to your constituents! Whether it is your wife, your children, employees, customers or suppliers, it is important to listen and take their opinions into consideration.

This time last year, Obama was freshly inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States riding a huge wave of popularity and tasked with cleaning up an economic mess. During the past twelve months as he was charting a new economic course for America, he was also working diligently on crafting a game changing health care bill. As the year unfolded, it became apparent that the American people’s immediate priority was for ‘jobs’ and not ‘free health care’. Yet Obama continued to push for health care as he felt that it was an important issue and legacy for his Presidency. Due to this, the people of Massachusetts voted for a Republican Senator delivering a strong message to Obama, we want jobs! As evidenced by Obama’s State of the Union address, Obama finally heard this message loud and clear.

This is a reminder that agendas should not be carved in stone. Leadership must listen to its constituents and react if necessary by postponing or re-prioritizing an issue. Imagine if as a business leader you planned for a major capital purchase in 2010 in order to expand into a new market or line of business. Six months later as you are lining up the financing, the interest rates jump, a key customer in the new market faces a reduction in business, and yet as leader you continue to go ahead with the capital purchase. In this example, had you listened to your customers and financial advisors you likely would not have proceeded with the purchase. The lesson is that although advice received may not always lead to a change in your course of action, always be listening!

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