Becoming an active listener and powerless communicator often requires a change in habits—from talking to listening, self-promoting to advice-seeking, and advocating to inquiring. Often at work and in life we are quick to jump in with bright ideas as we are simply just trying to help the situation.
I recently read a study by Jim Quigley, a senior partner at Deloitte who previously served as CEO, who decided to work on his powerless communication. He set a goal in meetings to talk no more than 20 percent of the time. “One of my objectives is listening. Many times, you can have bigger impact if you know what to ask, rather than knowing what to say. I don’t learn anything when I’m speaking. I learn a lot when I’m listening,” said Quigley.
As he shifted from answers toward questions, Quigley found himself gaining a deeper understanding of other people’s needs. “It doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it’s a habit, and you can form that habit.”
In our coaching practice at The Customer Agency, and certainly when coaching high performing Leaders and their teams, we will constantly challenge them on how much they spoke in a customer meeting, versus how often they set the scene, positioned a contextual value statement to the situation and then simply let their clients to the talking while they actively listened.
In customer engagement workshops we spend a lot time helping teams go deeper into their Customer's challenges, trying to get them past just skimming the surface and ticking a box on understanding "the problem".
Its at this stage, and with active listening front of mind that we can really help to unpack their clients challenges and be in a better position to help. I often use the infamous quote by Einstein "If I give you an hour, take 55 minutes to deeply understand the problem, then 5 minutes to solve it". We encourage people to spend 75% of their time with clients actively listening, and 25% of their time in thoughtful, meaningful and with context conversation about how to help meet their business goals.
Overall, this simple habit cannot be underestimated. With active listening its the proven way to really build trust, understand the real problem to be solved and enhance the relationship.
There are five key techniques you can use to develop your active listening skills:
- Pay attention.
- Show that you're listening.
- Provide feedback.
- Defer judgement.
- Respond appropriately.
This is a conscious habit you need to really work on, focus on getting that active listening muscle firing and you will reap the benefits on so many levels.
Let me know if this has been helpful to you. Shoot me a Linkedin message or DM.
Sarah Kerr - Customer Leadership Consultant The Customer Agency