June 30, 2019

Sorry, what?

Sent by Jonathan Stark on July 1st, 2019

Has anyone ever told you that you’re a good listener? If not, well... you might not be so great at it.

I know I’m not a good listener. Just ask my podcast co-hosts :-)

But I know that listening is a critical skill for a consultant, especially if you want to value price your services. So out of necessity, I have worked hard on it over the years and have gotten better.

I’ll probably never be a world-class listener but I have cobbled together some tactics that I have found to be pretty effective. If - like me - you’re not a naturally good listener, here are three tips that you might find useful:

  1. Recognize critical opportunities—It’d be great if I was a good listener all the time but it takes an enormous amount of concentration for me so I can’t do it constantly. But I do know when it is really really important for me to be listening effectively as possible. Things like sales interviews, emotional meetings, or back-channel conversations are critical times to make sure you’re listening far more than you are talking.
  2. Take notes on paper—Of course, I take notes so that I can refer back to them later. But perhaps just as importantly, taking notes on paper forces me to focus on what’s being said instead of thinking ahead to what I’m going to say next, or trying to solve on the fly some problem that is being presented to me.
  3. Relentlessly dispel assumptions—If I say the word “dog” to you, we will both probably picture a dog in our heads. But it will almost certainly not the be same dog. By the same token, if a client uses a vague word like “better” - as in, “we want the reporting system to work better” - they will almost certainly be picturing a different kind of better than what you are picturing. Be vigilant about clarifying exactly what clients mean when they use vague terms like “better” or “improved” or “optimized” or “fixed” or whatever else.

I hope this helps! And feel free to send in your listening tips if you’d like me to share them with the list.