Andy Odenbach | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Andy Odenbach

Background:  

Tavistock Development Co. is a diversified real estate firm with a portfolio of acclaimed properties in Central Florida, most notably Lake Nona, which ranks among the nation's best-selling master-designed communities.

The Mistake:

I was asked to move from New York to Seattle to run the PGA Championship, one of the largest golf tournaments in the world – the 1998 PGA championship. I was going out there as a 23-year-old tournament director, thinking I know everything because I just got done with the 1997 Championship.

I’m coming in there with [the attitude]: “I’m the tournament director. I’m gonna do things the PGA way, and this is all going to go swimmingly."

My peer [at the PGA], who had been there for a year, was a woman that had about 20 years of experience. And she came into my office and said: “I can’t work with you...because you don’t listen to me.”

And I had to actually step back because now fear hits me. I’m going to lose my job, and I’m 23, and they’re going to think they made this big mistake.

My initial reaction was to take this moment very seriously. As my career moved along, I started to employ the practice of genuinely listening to other people. It made me come to understand I’d get a lot more out of them for whatever we were trying to achieve.

I had to actually step back because now fear hits me.

 

The Lesson:

In order for people to be understood and appreciated, we have to be good listeners. We can’t just be good speakers and good doers. My job was to go [to the PGA] and listen to what everybody had to offer and extract the best of what they had to offer – and push the organization forward.

I would say, to this day, she taught me the importance of genuinely listening to other people in order to make things work. I look back on it and really am grateful that she was that forceful with me. She wanted me to understand her, but more importantly, she got me to understand how important it was in terms of moving forward in my career.

To this day, I leave my phone on silent [during a conversation] because my job is to listen.

Follow Tavistock Development Co. on Twitter at @TavistockDevCo.

Pictured: Andy Odenbach. / Courtesy of Andy Odenbach.

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