If you listened to music on a pair of headphones before 1958, you were listening in mono. The sound was just a single channel, recorded with one microphone. The mono experience was flat, lacking depth or detail.
With the invention of the stereo headphone, listeners could hear distinct tracks recorded from different microphones playing at once for the first time. The experience became fuller, more immersive. Inserting relative space allowed the music to sound closer to what it was like in the recording studio. This was a thrilling development for the music industry and nothing short of a revolution in audio.
Just as sound comes to life in stereo, with 360-degree immersion, dimension, perspective and balance, the same is true in business and in life. All of your life’s experiences become more fulfilled when you experience the world with the richer qualities of high-fidelity stereo. Learning becomes deeper and more profound. Having a stereo mindset is fundamental to leadership.
In my experience, humans are very much creatures of habit and comfort. There’s a sense of safety in a one-track, mono approach. But the problem is, if we stay on one track, we are depriving ourselves of all that’s to be experienced and learned along the roads less traveled. It’s only when we leave our comfort zones that we have the opportunity to gain new perspective, experience new vantage points and approach our most stubborn obstacles from a new angle.
Take an International Assignment
How do you find high-fidelity? Have the courage to raise your hand for the difficult or uncomfortable assignment that challenges you to your core. In testing your limits, you’ll find you go further and further each time. Only then will you be able to take ownership of the career you want.
Take the wheel and hit the gas. Better yet, get on a plane. Ask to go abroad, and don’t just take the easy assignment. Be more than a visitor and dive into the social fabric of the society, living and working in a new place. For those from America, the UK doesn’t count. They speak English and the cultures are too similar! Challenge yourself by going to Germany, Japan or China. Stay for three or more years so you can learn the rhythm of life. Learn the 6,000 years of history. Learn how to think differently and adapt to a
whole new decision-making process.
Taking an international assignment is one of the most enriching things you can do. The experience will shape your career and your entire life. In our increasingly globalized world, the ability to listen to and be challenged by different people from different places is the single most important skill for any executive to have.
Find a Great Partner
When you live in a high-fidelity stereo environment, you’ll realize that while your own perspectives are valuable, so too are those of the people closest to you. We all have people in our lives whose opinions and counsel carry special weight – our partners (personal and professional). And these partners will have a tremendous influence and impact on our careers.
In a way, the perfect partner defies physics. They balance you – yet they propel you forward. They keep you grounded, and they lift you up. A great partner will open your eyes to see nuance, hear the words behind the words, and understand people in a different way. They should challenge you too – and you must be humble to listen and accept their viewpoints. In the same way, be a great partner to them as well, and only then will the full dimension of stereo be realized.
With so many bright young minds graduating school and entering the workforce this time of year, listening is a critical part of their ongoing education. The business world also draws inspiration from the global community. To neglect this invaluable resource is nothing short of tone-deaf.
Strive to listen and absorb the diverse viewpoints and perspectives in your life and work – they will lead to teamwork, mutual respect, accountability, and integrity. Also, always maintain a curious mind. At HARMAN, I’m constantly encouraging questions and challenges to my assumptions. This approach has always led to better outcomes for myself and for my teams.
Leaving my comfort zone…leaning on my partner (my wife, in my case)…and listening to different voices… These experiences comprised my business education. The world wants the best ideas and the greatest hits, every time. No one cares where they come from. Live a life in stereo and you’re sure to build a legacy of hits, as opposed to the fading one-hit wonder.
This article was adapted from the commencement address delivered by Dinesh Paliwal to Miami University’s Farmers School of Business Class of 2017.