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There is a reason we have two ears and only one mouth.
Listening is an incredibly important skill to develop and it will get you farther in your personal life and career than speaking too quickly ever will.
John Esparza is the President & CEO of the Texas Trucking Association, but before that he worked for Governor Bush’s office in the 90s as the Coalition Director.
During this time he was able to see much of the great state of Texas, but it also gave him valuable experience hosting events. While hosting these events, he learned about the importance of listening to local individuals at the venues where he was coordinating these events.
This practice of active listening was instrumental in a lot of John’s success later in his career, and he now advocates within the field of public policy. His job is to ensure that the voice of the trucking industry is part of the vernacular that creates the laws and rules that govern Texas. He must listen to the people he represents to ensure that they have a seat at the legislative table and are engaged in the political process.
In this episode of Lead to Grow, I spoke with John about the importance of listening, hearing out different opinions, and being an agent of change in the state of Texas.
Importance of Listening
John truly values great company culture that supports development of both its managers and individual contributors. When John was in charge of running events, he often had to come into a community that wasn’t his own and pull together volunteers fairly quickly. He learned that he had the most success not when he told them what to do, but rather when he listened to what they wanted as a community.
“I wasn’t interested in going down there and telling them what to do. I was interested in going down there and them telling them what works best for them to make a great event.” – John Esparza
John has witnessed an incredible amount of synergy in organizations where everyone seems to be rowing in the same direction; he believes there’s something special there.
When you create a culture like that, failure doesn’t define the group, but getting back up and back on course for the shared goal does. It often takes more courage to sit down, listen, and agree on a way forward rather than barking orders, but John is certain you’ll be more successful if you listen before you talk.
“That’s the most amazing part: Getting people in the room who will put an oar in the water and row that boat in the same direction.” – John Esparza
Listening to Those Who Are Different Than You
John likes to tell his organization’s team members to take part in decision making, not be subject to it. He’s always liked being around those who challenge him and think differently than he does. He’s been pleasantly surprised what he’s learned from people who are polar opposites of him in many ways.
For example, one time John was paired with a Democrat politician at a golf outing. Even though they came from different backgrounds and ideologies in certain ways, John genuinely enjoyed learning how this man governed and appreciated his overall thoughts on leadership.
This man said something that John never forgot (while referencing people across the political spectrum in the state of Texas): “Don’t ever forget that they all got where they are because of their love for Texas. Regardless of differences, they serve publicly for Texas and take ownership of their love for Texas.”
This allowed John to have a new level of appreciation for those with different opinions than him. It was a reminder that he could stick to his principles while simultaneously taking the time to listen and empathize with those who were different than him.
Being a Part of Change
John is an advocate of getting involved in local politics and being an agent of change. He firmly believes that if you don’t vote, you shouldn’t gripe because in many ways you are sitting back and letting things happen passively. John also believes you have to do more than talk, you have to be a catalyst for change.
If John and his team do their job right, they are making the entire state of Texas a better place. His current leadership team is taking their responsibility very seriously. They are aiming to maintain the business-friendly environment that Texas is known for and are accomplishing that by listening to the individuals they represent.
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