I recently spoke with a friend who won a new client with a single conversation. My friend asked his new client why he was chosen and the answer was simple: “You listened to me, looked me in the eyes, and weren’t texting on your phone while I was talking to you.”
While I know not all new business can be won like this, this story made me think about the value of listening and identify what active listening really is.
There’s a frequently referenced McKinsey article1 from 2012 that provides 3 kinds of behaviors essential for active listening:
Show respect: give your undivided attention regardless of the title of the person with whom you’re speaking
Keep quiet: improve the quality and effectiveness of your conversations by weighing in at the right time and improve the odds that you’ll spot nonverbal cues you might have missed otherwise
Challenge assumptions: challenge your own assumptions by maintaining an open mind and seeking to understand
These seem easy enough to implement and validate why my friend won his new client. Nonetheless, in order to get insight into a broader perspective, I surveyed 50 people in my extended network to uncover the most prevalent reasons that they are not actively listening.
A full third stated that the primary reason for lack of attention was that they were mentally rehearsing their response before the person finished speaking. This resonated with me as I have found myself in situations where I am quick to offer a solution when I haven’t fully heard the problem at hand. It takes conscious practice, but improving our active listening habits often leads to more focused, productive communication.
A few years ago, I participated in an improv workshop at a conference. Intimidating, yes, but the skills imparted on me were quite practical. The one I’ve benefited from most is a game called “last word-first word.” Imagine that you have to continue someone else’s story using the last word that they say. You can’t preplan your response. When you train yourself to do this, you have to listen intently to their entire statement before jumping prematurely to a solution. It’s hard to do (especially when your confidant is verbose in their communication…) but it’s a skill that has helped me immensely.
Practice active listening this week and see which of these you can accomplish:
Minimize swirling and rework
Elevate the quality of the focused solution
Make your colleagues feel heard and respected
Best of luck in your practice and please let me know how active listening elevated your success this week.
Meet Molly Lane
As the VP, Director of Client Services at Core-Rx Communications, I have over 16 years of experience leading talented healthcare communications teams to grow client brands and agency revenues.
The mission of WeInspireWe is to support and empower female leaders and this is consistent with what I’ve always tried to do with myself and my teammates.
In various management roles throughout my career, I’ve cherished:
Building teams that work towards one unified goal
Experiencing the sheer joy and pride that occurs when seeing my teammates realize their full potential
Helping my teammates navigate life changes with confidence and create harmony with work
What I find most gratifying is that people who I managed many years ago continue to use me as a sounding board and feel comfortable enough to reach out to me for both personal and professional advice.
Please connect with me! Don’t forget to include a note letting me know how you found me and why you’d like to connect.
The Executive’s Guide to Better Listening, February 2012.