The more you want to talk,
the more you need to listen.
Recently I landed a wonderful new client. All I needed to do was remind myself of Warren’s directive above. Boy was that difficult. Along the way I had several realizations, if not revelations.
The person I was speaking to was thoughtful, on track and relevant so I didn’t need to ask questions to keep them focused. Yet there were ten times –I counted them—when I wanted to interrupt and say something. 50 % of my motivation was to add something of value to the conversation, but at least 50 % was about ego, competitiveness, a need to impress and a need to be listened to after I had been listening so patiently.
Each time I wanted to interrupt I didn’t, but I had to manage the internal conflict between wanting to remember the "brilliant" thing I wanted to say and listening to what the other person was continuing to say. The longer he went on the more difficult it was to hold onto what I wanted to say. Eventually I had to make the choice to either blurt it out or to let it go and go back to listening more deeply.Unusual for me, I selected the latter, i.e. let go of needing to say something and went back to listening deeply.
Ironically, but not surprisingly now that I think about it, each time I did this, the other person went deeper into what they wanted to speak about and what was more important and meaningful to them.By the end of the twenty minutes all I needed to do was summarize what I heard, think to myself whether or not I could help, say exactly that.
This led immediately to the other person asking me how soon I could begin.
How often do you as a leader talk without adding anything important or necessary to the discussion? How often do your people defer to you out of politeness on the outside while privately losing respect for you inside? Maybe it's time for you listen more than you talk.
Catch my live interview with Warren Bennis on "Move from Managing to Leading" on October 28, 2008 at 9:30-11 AM PST/12:30-2 PM EST. For more info go to: The Center for Great Management.