Who’s listening? 

Have you overheard a conversation regarding someone’s business or their personal life as they openly chat in a public place? It can happen anywhere – airports, planes, public transportation, in an office lobby or even in the restroom! Some folks want us to hear both sides of the conversation so they put the call on speaker. I heard that in the grocery store a couple weeks ago.

From a business or personal perspective, it is absolutely amazing what people will say within earshot of others!

Here are two examples I’ve personally witnessed as others shared proprietary company information in public:

A couple of years ago I was flying from LA to Atlanta for a trade show. I had a connection in Dallas and when I boarded the plane I found that my seat was directly in front of two people that worked for a competitor. It didn’t take a genius to figure out who they worked for because they wore the classic company logo shirts.

The pair were so caught up in their conversations they never recognize me, the head of sales for a competitor, sitting right in front of them. Directly behind me the two talked the entire flight about company issues, accounts, product problems, personnel conflicts and company gossip. I was actually embarrassed for them. The fun came a day later when one of them walked over to our exhibit at the show and upon seeing me realized I was the guy in front of them on the plane. I made a point to acknowledge him and apologize for not saying hello on that flight but they seemed so caught up in their conversations I didn’t want to interrupt them.

A few months later a second incident occurred while I was riding the rental car bus to the lot at the Oakland airport. I sat next to a gentleman talking on his cell phone about a job walk scheduled for the next day. He didn’t even put the phone down to get his bag off the bus, so I helped him. Ironically, I was traveling there to walk the same job with our installation manager. So the next day it was priceless to see the look on this guy’s face when he saw me at the job walk.

I’ve shared these stories numerous times for training examples with my sales teams. I stress the importance of protecting proprietary information and knowing when and where to discuss company business.

I’m sure you have your own stories to share and I would love to hear them. Don’t hold back sending in your tales of the trade. 

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Written by Fred Lewis, President of Lewis Consulting Group.