Methodically and precisely the former fighter pilot in World War II steered his grocery-cart scooter into the checkout lane. He grimaced as he gripped the soup can in his cart. The pain shot through his frail 85-year-old hand like so many bullets. Wincing, he dropped the can of soup on the conveyor belt with a thud!
The sound caught the attention of the customer in front of him. The 40-year-old abruptly turned his attention from the cashier scanning his groceries to the elderly man behind him. The younger man seemed captivated both by the cap the octogenarian wore and the compelling message it bore: WWII Veteran. Something stirred deep in the soul of the younger man.
The four-star general in the United States Army –all 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds of him – was scared. Not on the battlefield. After all he led the US coalition of troops from 30 countries to victory in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. No, General Norman Schwarzkopf was even more scared of unarmed men who couldn’t or wouldn’t cry. “Frankly, any man who doesn’t cry scares me a little bit,” Schwarzkopf admitted to Barbara Walters on ABC television’s 20/20 program in March 1991. “I don’t think I would like a man who was incapable of enough emotion to get tears in his eyes every now and then. That person scares me; he’s not a human being.”
Here’s an idea to get the most challenging audiences to listen and respond to you. Reading time: 1:58.
Listening with your eyes in particular and — with your entire face in general — is a keen leadership skill that very few leaders in my experience have mastered. We can all learn the art of listening with your eyes from Art Linkletter –my all time “eye” deal leader extraordinaire — and host of a network television talk show in the 1960s.
For 17 years on network television– as the then longest running daytime program– Art Linkletter made an art of conversing with people known more for their lack of attentiveness and their inclination to fidget and even cry. But Linkletter calmed those 5-10 year old youngsters. With his eyes.
Linkletter would kneel and bring his face up close to the face of a youngster. He would ask questions but the kids only saw his wide eyes like huge lollipops. Inviting. Sweet. Juicy.