What does a soccer game and a request for money have in common?

This weekend both of my boys, who are 8 and 7 years old, had soccer games and are almost finished their season.  As each of them played and scudded down the field as a part of a pack of other kids that all seemed to move as herd, I yelled out the moves they needed to make and where they needed to be on the field.  While doing this I began reflecting on the similarities I face when working with people and business that need money.

In yelling out the things I wanted my boys to do on the field I almost couldn’t help myself and I am sure that 90% of what I was yelling didn’t register with the boys as they continued to play the game the best they could with the practice and experience they have garnered to date.  In fact, my offering up suggestions on how to better their play was not necessarily helping them do any better and I could have saved myself a tremendous amount of angst by simply enjoying the game and giving pointers to them at the right time (and when asked).

When a person or business is seeking money and asks for my help I find that I have the same challenge of wanting to say so much about their decision and the things that they need to know.  Some clients focus on details that I might think are frivolous and totally ignore the important or critical items they need to be considering.  In the past 16 years I have heard a lot of stories and reasons why people need a mortgage or loan and yet I am reminded of how unique people (and businesses) are when I meet them for the first time and listen to them walk me through why they need money and how it is going to help them do more.  As I listen to their reasons I find myself listening for the particular points where I can be of most value without providing an overwhelming amount of commentary and instruction.  The key to any successful communication exercise is listening and only speaking when something needs to be said.  “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt” (— Abraham Lincoln).

So what do a soccer game and request for money have in common?  I have to do the best job I can from the sidelines to help without imposing myself and playing the game for them (for either of my sons or a client).  A good reminder for us all.

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