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The Power of Listening

It's an acquired skill

Photo by Nunzio Presta at Dreamforce 2018

Last week I had the privilege of attending Dreamforce, a massive tech, sales, marketing, leadership and personal empowerment conference spearheaded by Salesforce. With close to 200,000 attendees and over 2,700 sessions, it’s fair to say the event took over San Francisco proper. It’s also fair to say that if you weren’t organized and strategic about what you wanted to do during the conference, you were lost. The good news is, I was extremely organized, did everything I planned to do and the amount of content I absorbed proved to be extremely valuable.

One notable session I had the privilege of attending was a fireside chat between Dara Khosrowshahi (CEO of Uber) and Marc Benioff (CEO of Salesforce).

Most of their conversation focused on the discussion of culture and the responsibility tech companies should take when considering user safety and user data. However, there was one part of the fireside chat that particularly caught my attention; it was when Mr. Benioff asked Mr. Khosrowshahi, “What is the best advice he could give the previous CEO at Uber?” His response was inspired by advice he received from his previous boss, Barry Diller, while working for Expedia:

“Listen to what you don’t want to hear.”

This little (but deep) snippet of advice inspired me to create this piece. The truth is that most people like to talk more than listen, but the best leaders in the world who make a difference are outstanding listeners. And I don’t mean listeners that are already thinking about what to respond while the other is speaking, I mean thorough, genuine listeners; people and leaders who listen with the intent of learning, whether that be in a meeting or listening to customer feedback.

Here are 4 quick benefits of being an active listener:

Diffuse conflict – Listening allows you to be open-minded to other experiences and perspectives. When listening with ‘intent’, you can help people stay cool or cool off, when dealing with a problem, crisis or when discussing a sensitive issue.

Trust & Confidence – People will naturally respond to others if they think they are listening intently to what they are saying. Also, great listeners tend to have higher self-esteem and self-image because through their listening they work toward establishing positive relationships.

Productivity – When people are encouraged and have the freedom to work and be heard, problems are solved faster than they even arise. Jeff Bezos said it the best and I believe it has to do with being an active listener as well: “Disagree and commit”. By listening, understanding and acknowledging that, even if you feel the other is wrong, you’re still listening, open and willing to take a risk because you know there is more to learn from a failure than from doing nothing at all.

Fewer mistakes – Active listening leads to more accuracy in retaining information. You’ll retain important facts and minimize the risk of miscommunication and making mistakes.

As you can now see, listening skills are an important part of effective communication. Not only do you make the other person feel valued, but when you listen more, you learn more – and learning more is always a great thing in business and in life.

Active listening can play an important role in helping you get ahead in business, as you are on a constant journey looking for fidelity, and digging into the truths and understanding of what is really going on in your business and/or life. The good thing is, listening is a skill that can be acquired and developed with a little patience and practice.

What do you do to listen more actively? Tweet me here!

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