One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my professional and private life is the importance of listening. All too often, we’re so preoccupied with the information that we want to get across that we miss out on important information from others. This doesn’t come from a selfish place—we genuinely believe that what we have to share is valuable, and oftentimes it is—but I’ve found that listening allows you to bring even more valuable information to the table.
I think about two of my greatest mentors, Frank Moran and Ken Kunkel. They were known for being amazing listeners. I can remember sitting with them in meetings and watching them take page after page of notes based on what a client or staff member had to say. They would then circle back to these ideas—if not that same day then later on, to offer their advice and counsel. Their clients loved this approach, and why not? Who doesn’t appreciate knowing that someone is genuinely listening to what he/she has to say?
Another good point is that we listen as much with our body language as we do with our ears. For example, a colleague of mine used to have a nervous habit where he looked at his watch a lot. One afternoon, he was with a valued client, and he was listening to every word that client had to say. All of a sudden, the client said, “Do you have to be somewhere?” “Not at all,” said my colleague. “Then stop looking at your watch!” exclaimed the client. My colleague took off his watch and never put one on again. That’s how committed he is to client service and making sure his clients know they’re valued and listened to.
I’ve often heard that the most successful people are those who listen 80 percent of the time and speak only 20 percent of the time. I believe it.
What about you? How much time do you spend speaking versus listening? How important is active listening when it comes to business?