Stop, Listen and Learn
Have you ever eavesdropped? I find myself tuning into others’ conversations constantly without even meaning to. Recently, I overheard an interaction at a coffee shop that can be teachable moment for all of us. It’s a reminder about the importance of active listening.
Have you ever been told you talk too much? Have you ever heard the old-adage that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? (You are supposed to listen twice as much as you talk!) As I was overhearing a conversation between a leader and his sales representative meeting for the first time, I wanted to tap the leader on the shoulder and remind him of these things. He would ask a question, and then another question, and then another. He would maybe take a breath to allow the sales representative to answer, but then would continue to bombard him with questions. Despite this, the sales representative demonstrated his strong listening skills and the ability to navigate the conversation.
As I continued to drink my coffee and listen in on the conversation, I pondered what the leader would later think about this first interaction with his new employee. Did he learn anything new about his sales representative? Did he take a moment to soak in what his employee was saying to him? Most importantly, did he realize the representative did a great job holding his own throughout the conversation? Or was he merely checking a mark off his to-do list as he was blowing through town?
Next I wondered about the flip-side. What would the sales representative take away from his first interaction with his new boss? If it was me, I would have thought it was interesting to say the least. He sure asked a lot of questions, but did he care about the answers or merely hearing himself talk?
I am sure that their interactions improved as they gained more experience working together, but I felt the need to emphasize the importance of a leader having the ability to ask a great question and then truly listen to the answer. The best leaders know how to ask key questions – but they also know how to shut-up and listen. The value of the interaction is less about the question asked and more about the dialogue that the question provides. So next time you find yourself in a similar situation, make sure you Stop, Listen and Learn!