Let’s add Listening to our list of Core Competencies

I had a professor way back in my undergraduate days say this:

“if one expert says something, pay it some attention.  But if every expert says it, pay a whole lot of attention.”

Well, I challenge you to find a single expert who says this:

“you don’t have to listen – to your colleagues, or your employees, or your customers.”

No, the evidence is clear.  I’ve read enough business books to learn that business leaders, business authors, and everyone else believes that listening – developing really, really good listening skills – is seriously important.  Here’s what Roger Martin says about it (in one specific context):

What is the best way to learn another language? (He is discussing the language of reliability and the language of validity in a business setting). It is to spend time with those who speak the language you wish to acquire, in their environment.  Just listen, as if it is truly important and with empathy, and you will learn the language in no time.

Though I have not found listening listed on anyone’s list of core competencies, I think it should be added.  And if you have not developed the ability to listen really, really well, you will definitely fall behind.

And here is a little hint about good listening skills:  when someone else is talking, do not try to figure out what your response will be — just listen.  And after that other person finishes talking, make sure you understood exactly what that person said.  And then, and only then, should you figure out what you will say in response.

And, yes, I need to more fully develop this ability myself.

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