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Learning to Listen: Lessons from a Young Lifeguard

Talent Management: from the beach to the boardroom

 A young lifeguard at a Florida beach, Tomas Lopez, was recently fired for saving someone’s life. Crazy, right? The lifeguard saw a person struggling in the water, and rushed in to save the distressed swimmer.


Instead of receiving praise for his actions, he was promptly fired by management for helping someone outside his assigned “zone” of the beach. The company also fired several other lifeguards who voiced support for Tomas’ actions.

Only when the story went viral did the management team change their tune and offer the lifeguards their jobs back. For Lopez, it was too little, too late: ““They are trying to fix the wrong that they did. On a personal level, I just don’t want to work for that company anymore,” he said.

This story is a great example of what happens when people don’t listen. The young lifeguards tried to explain what happened to the management team, with no success.

We all know what it is like when you try to get through to someone but they only listen to wait for your pause. Their mind is made up, and no matter what you say, they just don’t listen.

Listening is one of the most important skills any person can have. It has a strong impact on your career, your job, and your relationships. Here’s why is listening so important:

  • We listen for information;
  • We need to listen to learn;
  • We need to listen to understand;
  • We need to listen to better understand what is expected of us;
  • We need to listen to build rapport;
  • We need to listen to resolve problems with customers, co-workers, and bosses.


Also, here are some useful tips you can use to really listen to what is going on around you:

  1. Focus on what is in front of you. It sounds simple enough, but think of the times you are speaking to someone and your mind is elsewhere.
  2. Pick up the vibe from the people who are present. Have you ever met someone and you felt like you had known them forever? There is this vibe that just allows people to connect. When you engage them, they are totally into the conversation.
  3. See things as for the first time. Act like someone who has never experienced this before. Treat it as a learning event, and that the person you are speaking with is giving you some awesome new insight.

Without a doubt, listening is the one skill that everyone benefits from. So much conflict and misunderstanding comes from poor communication. Not only that, but in the workplace as well as our social lives, we can all benefit from using and mastering this simple skill.


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