I’ve had a number of conversations with people recently about listening and learning. I believe the two are interrelated. Can you learn without listening? John Whitehead said “If I’m talking, I’m only hearing what I already know”. Think about it and I believe you’ll agree.
Two of these conversations were with people who managed sales teams. They’ve observed that their people are doing most of the talking when they are with clients. How can they learn about their clients’ wants and needs if they were doing the talking? The salespeople were clearly missing out. One realtor with whom I was speaking agreed. She thought her staff needed to listen to their clients to learn what the client was looking for in a home. How else would they know what to show? And if they don’t listen and learn, they will eventually lose the client because they can’t meet their needs on what is the most important decision we make in life.
I work with executives on this. We all know they got to where they are because of what they know. As a result, they think they have to keep talking, carrying the load, and having all the answers. I challenge them to ask more questions. To see what the people around them have to say. Picture the leader who has someone appear at their office with a question. The easy path is to simply answer the question. My challenge. Instead of tossing out an answer, ask the person what they think or what they would do. Sit back and see what they have to say. You might be amazed. Our teams are bright and have much to offer. And the best part? They will gain confidence and grow, becoming stronger and more productive employees, and making you look better in the process!
Much of the work I do involves action learning. Action learning’s key feature is the power of questions. I’ve seen it work wonders – growing leaders, growing teams, and improving corporate cultures.
So, now I challenge you. Give it a try. The next time you’re in conversation with someone, spend more of your time asking questions then sit back and listen. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much you learn.