I’m a CEO and the most underrated business skill is one most people are terrible at
Article Published by: businessinsider.com
Communication is the one of the most important skills in business.
The key to good communication is actively listening when engaged in a conversation. To show others that you’re actively listening, enter meetings by asking what the other people in attendance plan to achieve, before jumping into your own agenda. Look the speakers in the eye when they’re talking, and focus on content of the conversation — not on their delivery. Work hard to uncover the core nugget in the speakers’ messages, summarize the key points, and follow up to show you actually listened to what they had to say.
When I was the senior vice president and general manager of the Oracle Data Cloud, I once hosted a vendor who wanted to market data through our platform. The salespeople pitched to us before they even understood what we did. Their examples not only were irrelevant to our services, but also highlighted our competitors. If they had only listened to our needs before diving in, we could have enjoyed a productive conversation. Instead, they left without a signature.
Active listening could have saved that deal.
When someone concentrates fully on a conversation, considers the content, and demonstrates an understanding of the message, the person on the other side feels valued — and is more likely to be agreeable. Bad listening creates the opposite effect.
Strong conversational skills aren’t just for salespeople, though. Everyone — from CEOs and product managers to newly minted college graduates — could use a crash course in the forgotten art of active listening.
Don’t just hear someone — listen to them.
Active listening is beneficial for everyone engaged in a conversation. The speaker feels appreciated, and the listener retains more information and earns favor from the speaker. Everyone wins.
Gallup research has found that the majority of employees feel disengaged at work. A commitment to active listening could help leaders and co-workers repair that disconnect and boost engagement rates within their teams. Here are five ways to get started.
1. Don’t monopolize the conversation.
Too often, we enter meetings with only our own agendas and goals in mind. Instead, we should enter and ask questions about what others aim to achieve. If you leave the meeting concerned that you didn’t fulfill all your desires — that’s OK. Just prioritize those points for next time.
This approach can lead to less talking, more listening, and a better outcome for all.
2. Focus on the speaker, and look him in the eye.
If seeing is believing, then looking someone in the eyes is a good way to maintain engagement. The same goes for video calls, so look into the camera when you speak.
3. Appreciate first; judge later.
It’s easy to tune out people who lack conversational finesse. But just because they don’t sound like Winston Churchill doesn’t mean their points are invalid. Rather than rush to judgment, focus on the content of the conversation and look for the value in their words.
The less you get distracted by speakers’ deliveries, the better you can listen to the content of their messages.
4. Summarize and develop key points.
This technique works wonders in meetings: Work hard to uncover the core nugget in the last speaker’s message, then contribute a valuable point beyond it. Your focus on building up the conversation not only proves you are listening, but also forces you to stay engaged.
5. Finally, follow up.
The most overlooked part of listening is the follow-up.
Send a clear, concise recap message that summarizes all the important parts of the meeting. Doing so demonstrates that you listened closely and considered the content of the conversation important. If taking accurate notes and summarizing action items isn’t your strong suit, try using an in-meeting AI approach.
By implementing these tips, you can revive the lost art of listening and become the best listener you know. Just try not to talk about it too much.
About Scott Livengood
Scott Livengood is the owner and CEO of Dewey’s Bakery, Inc., a commercial wholesale bakery with a respected national brand of ultra premium cookies and crackers.
Previously, Scott worked at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for 27 years, starting as a trainee in 1977. He was appointed President of the company in 1992, then CEO and Chairman of the Board.
Scott has served on numerous boards including the Carter Center, the Calloway School of Business and the Babcock School of Management, Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County, and the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.
He started a new business, StoryWork International, in 2016 with Richard Stone. The signature achievement to date is LivingStories, a story-based program for improved patient experiences and outcomes in partnership with Novant Health.