It occurred to me last week in my Step Aerobics class that I was getting better, which was nothing if not awe inspiring considering my aversion to the idea of “step aerobics” just one year ago when I defensively announced to anyone in my gym who suggested that I try it how woefully pathetic I was at it the one time I’d tried it about 15 years prior. Yes, that sad Tuesday morning I’d loudly and with great flourish, fallen, twisted my ankle and landed squarely on my bum after rolling- yes rolling-onto the lady next to me and knocking her off of her step as well. She wasn’t amused. That was the end for me, and I’d made a big point of making that known to anyone who would dare to suggest I get back on the horse. I was a buffoon, had 2 left feet, wasn’t quick enough, etc. etc. really any excuse that served me that day to avoid ever trying step again. And anyway, wasn’t “step” so ‘80’s’ anyway?

Fast forward 14 or so years later, this girl is back in the step saddle and, after a month or so of not so quiet determination, much swearing under her breath, and messing up, is happy to report she’s faced down her step demons and actually is enjoy the challenge of “stepping”.

What’s my success secret, you may be asking, besides the obvious “determination”? It came to me the other day, mid “half hop, diagonal over, corner L”: listening skills.

Seriously. Step aerobics, unlike so many other aerobic exercises: biking, running, swimming, etc., requires one to be front and present. It’s instructions are so quick and require such immediate action that if one dares to space out even for 2 seconds with even a nano second thought like “oow, did I remember to send that proposal?” one is screwed and will have lost all momentum. And forget catching up…that move is gone forever. So not only do we burn many calories and firm up the rump in step, it also serves as a great focusing exercise for the brain. How often have I and so many of us tended to “hear” like the buzz of the grown ups in the background of a Charlie Brown special, rather than what is now known as “active listen”? As in requiring one to process the information being given us; as in when someone tells you their name-that you’ve asked for- and then is promptly…promptly! forgotten the minute it is uttered. As a matter of fact your hearing the name probably never came close to being processed. Sound familiar? If so, stand up and say, “hear, hear”!” Never mind, bad joke.

As business owners, the skill of learning how to listen…. really listen- could not be more important. Think of the difference it makes when we walk into the local dry cleaners and the owner yells out “Hi Suzen!” rather than “What is your phone number” and then proceeds to look you up, even though you’ve been dropping off your clothes at this dry cleaner consistently every other Tuesday at 5:30. Big difference! Customer loyalty is automatically ratcheted up 10 notches.

So the next time a potential client tells you her name- after you have asked for it- which you should always do by the way- be sure you’re prepared to remember it- or use the acceptable cheat of the “trigger game” my grandmother taught me when her dementia really began kicking in: Mike- as in “I like Ike”- as in he looks a bit like Dwight D. Eisenhower, or “Becca” –as in she looks a little like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms.



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