“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” – Bill Nye

One of the best training experiences I ever had was taking a course from Eugene Emerson Jennings at Michigan State University. In addition to being a professor, Jennings was counsel to the stars. He was a personal coach to many executives who led the massive auto industry in Detroit in the 70s.

Jennings regarded business as a complicated maze. He watched to see who navigated it well and discerned that they possessed certain skills that helped them. He called those with these skills “Maze Bright.”

The quote from Bill Nye, the Science Guy, reminded me of the “Maze Bright” lesson. Jennings said “Maze Bright” people focus on gathering information from others. The logic is this: you know what you know. The idea is to learn from others and further develop your own information base.

So, the skills are simple:

  • Listen rather than talk. You can’t learn if you are talking.
  • Ask questions versus giving answers. Use your talking time to probe. Get others to share their insight and knowledge.
  • Seek to understand the meaning of what is being said as compared to the literal words spoken. A discerning, careful listener “reads between the lines.” He discerns by inflection and tone what points are emphasized. He seeks to understand more about the situation. Understanding the meaning helps you ask better questions. It gives you the opportunity to listen more.

These strategies are simple to understand but challenging to implement. We get affirmed when we speak up. We earn the praise of our teachers when we raise our hands and give the answers.

It takes a rare discipline and insight to change gears and shift to the “Maze Bright” skill set. But it works!

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PalletOne CEO Howe Wallace
PalletOne Inc.
Company President, Howe Q. Wallace

Since 2005, he has been sharing his thoughts on the organization, leadership, and communication in an online daily note to teammates called Daily with HQ.


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