First a quote: “We put little effort into real listening, we just take turns talking.” – Bob Conklin
Years ago, when I first started my consulting practice, I attended a local networking event hosted by our Chamber of Commerce. Anxious to meet potential clients and be at the heart of it all, I sat in the middle of the very front row. Precisely because it was a “networking event” the meeting host asked each of us (maybe 40 people) to introduce ourselves and offer our 60 second “elevator pitch”. (An elevator pitch is a short narrative highlighting the products, services & value you offer, and could be delivered in a two or three floor elevator ride… hence the name, Elevator Pitch.)
The facilitator asked the person on the end of the first row to my left to begin. As each person introduced themselves, I mentally rehearsed my pitch, knowing it would be my turn to speak after the first six or seven people took their turns. Certainly, I didn’t want to sound like a quivering mess and hopefully, even sound professional, somewhat intelligent or at the very least, not make a fool of myself. When it came to my turn to offer my hastily rehearsed elevator pitch, the host interrupted the process and asked me to introduce the people seated to my left… the people who had just introduced themselves.
“Say what?” You have got to be kidding me. “Why me?” I thought to myself. My mind raced, my heart pounded, my face turned red. I could not repeat one single name of anyone seated to my left, not even the person right next to me, let alone tell you anything about the services they offered. Why? Because I was focused on what I was going to say when it was my turn to talk. My very worst fear came to life. I was discovered to be the fool I had hoped to keep well hidden, because I chose not to listen to others!
I was extremely embarrassed, and more than a little miffed, the host picked on me that day to make his point. However, I have never forgotten his point, which was, “You can’t sell anything to anyone if you don’t listen to them first; if you’re not paying attention to what they are thinking, feeling or saying.” Stephen Covey said it this way, “If you want to be understood, seek first to understand.”
While I’m quite confident I wasn’t the only person mentally rehearsing that day, I’m also quite certain I’m the only person who remembers that painful lesson from more than 15 years ago. I know I’m a better spouse, parent, friend and consultant today because of my poor listening habits then. I’m also lucky enough to be married to a very loving woman, who kindly reminds me on a regular basis, to be a better listener. Being a good listener is hard work and takes tremendous focus and energy. I wish you all of the joy, and success, that can come with being an effective listener.
Communicating is not just taking turns to speak!
How will you lead differently, or better, this week?
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”