• emilyhawkins28

My Million Dollar Mistake

Listening and how it will cost you if you don't do it

Have you ever beat yourself up for not listening to someone?

Trust me when I say I've been there too. One such occasion cost the company I was working for $1 million.

It was January 2014 and a high demand product suddenly became available in the marketplace. I jumped on the chance to, not only buy a small quantity but, all of it.

The employee that managed the inventory came to me with questions. "Why are we buying so much? I don't think we need quite this level of inventory."

I told her that we would need more as the year progressed and to purchase it now before anyone else had a chance to buy it.

You probably know that I was wrong and she was right. That purchase was something we sat on for an entire year! We ended up selling it for a loss.

All of this could have been avoided if I had mastered the art of active listening.

The Wikipedia definition:

Active listening involves the listener observing the speaker's behavior and body language. Having the ability to interpret a person's body language lets the listener develop a more accurate understanding of the speaker's message.

I believe active listening goes much deeper though. I want to explain it so that you can start using it today and hopefully save yourself future financial and emotional losses in the process.

I will use my story to illustrate how active listening would have changed everything.


This is where I initially went wrong. I never consulted the person closest to the work. I simply told her to make a purchase. Not only did this show disrespect for her work but it also showed that I didn't value her opinion in her work.

Questions I could have asked:

  • I'm considering a purchase but you are the expert in all things (product name), what would you recommend we purchase?

Hindsight: An active listener consults with anyone and everyone that their decision affects. There is always more information that is worth taking into consideration.


When someone asks you questions become a detective and investigate the situation. The best way to do this is to ask clarifying questions. In the original scenario I never thought to ask my employee's opinion as to why she felt like I was forcing her to buy excessive amounts of inventory. I simply steamrolled her with an order.

Questions I could have asked:

  • Why do you think this is too big of a buy?

  • What about this purchase feels wrong to you?

  • What trends have you seen in the last month for this product?

Hindsight: An active listener questions. If someone disagrees ask for them to elaborate. If someone agrees with you also make sure to have them elaborate as they may simply agree with you to gain your favor, an equally dangerous path.

Read the room

What I left out in my story above was how nervous this woman was when I told her my purchasing plans. She was visibly shaken by my brash move.

Questions I could have asked:

  • I see I've shaken you up with my plan, what about this feels wrong to you?

  • Is there a number that would make you feel more comfortable with the situation?

Hindsight: An active listener reads body language. They see when someone is uneasy and they question it to understand more about the person's concerns before moving forward with a decision or directive.


1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All