I’ve been reminded a few times recently about the vital importance of listening – really keeping quiet and truly listening and seeking to understand your communication partner. There were three separate, unrelated reminders about listening in the span of a couple of days. It must be important . . .

First, I was in a meeting with a prospective client in Malaysia. During the meeting, I just asked a lot of questions and only offered a couple of ideas. Part of the time, I was feeling like I should talk more (I was called in to be the “leadership expert”). However, by asking questions and truly listening to her responses, the ideas I had to share were spot on. They weren’t anything especially earth shattering but they were exactly what she needed to know at this time for her particular situation.

After the meeting, we were chatting about my journey to Malaysia, how long we’d been here and family. Somehow we got on the topic of listening. When people ask about my (very long) life in consulting, I always get onto the topic of listening. We often think of consultants as those who come in, talk a lot, share statistics and “best practices” then leave without really making an impact. The best consultants that I have known over the years are those that ask many informed questions, listen well, and share ideas that particularly suit the clients needs. That is effective consulting that builds trust.

Over the past few years, I’ve been teaching a simple little active listening model as a foundational skill for sales, people management, and leadership. There’s also a great LinkedIn post by my friend Amy McGraner about the importance of listening in IT project and a good Wall Street Journal Article posted below if you’d like to learn more.

Remember: Whoever answers before listening is both foolish and shameful.

(Ancient Proverb)

 1. Be Open Minded

  • Open yourself to your clients point of view
  • Withhold interim judgment

2. Create a Connection

  • Use body language and eye contact to show interest
  • Use verbal & non-verbal behaviors to build rapport

3. Seek to Discover

  • Use questions to expand & explore (What? Why? What if? What next?)
  • Use silence to allow time to think

4. Verify & Understand

  • Paraphrase to show understanding
  • Demonstrate sincere consideration for what your client shared

The Smart Before The Horse: Economics Before Ergonomics

Tuning In: How to Listen Better – WSJ