A few years ago, I began doing executive coaching as a new discipline for the agency, after a few C-level clients asked me to work with some of their senior staff members to improve their leadership and communication skills. “Me?” I thought, “Why me?” But then I thought about the common theme that almost every former client had shared about working with me and the team at HCB Health — that we were good listeners.
Since then, I have worked with many different folks from a wide range of pharma and device companies who have all needed my support in different areas of development. Some were CEOs, and some were middle managers seeking to rise up the ranks. What separated the ones I knew would be successful from the ones I wondered about? Not their EQ or their P&L skills, but whether they knew how to listen to feedback. They were the ones that wanted to get better, and their curiosity was a one-way ticket there.
Listening has become a lost art. We are too busy staring at our phones while typing, nodding and saying, “uh huh” (OK, yes, I have teenagers) or scrolling through social media at a maniacal pace worrying we might miss something that needs a pithy comment. In the workplace, we are having more meetings than ever, but we now have some unwelcome attendees — laptops, cell phones and smart watches — beckoning us away from each other and deep inside our devices. We talk about living in a connected world but are as disconnected as ever.
At HCB Health, we are a different kind of healthcare agency — born far away from Madison Avenue in the weird and wonderful city of Austin. We have evolved over time, adding an amazingly talented team in Chicago as well as more square feet in both offices, a larger staff and bigger clients. But one thing remains consistent in our culture and our cause: we are truly powered by listening. It’s the engine of who we are and how we show up.
Making great advertising and its favorite cousin, brilliant strategy, is no accident. Every great piece of admirable work is born from an idea. Ideas are fed by insight — and you cannot experience insight without listening. It is simply impossible.
So we decided to put our money where our mouths were and declare ourselves The Listening Agency. We custom-built our pink couch — the living symbol of how we see our role in the world. Our couch lives in our office (and yes, it’s big and it’s pink) but it’s meant to live inside everyone who carries an HCB business card.
There’s an expression in this part of the world that says, “Come and sit awhile.” It’s a colloquial phrase that means “I want to hear what you have to say, and I plan to be fully present during this conversation.” This is the essence of who we strive to be at HCB Health. It’s just you and me, and we give each other our best gifts — we just listen.
So come and sit awhile on our pretty pink couch and let's talk.