Listening is a skill we can build on and improve, but many leaders consider it a non-skill. However, what could be a more fundamental skill for hiring talented teams, leading people or closing the next big sale? And what skill is more important in getting hired for your dream job and achieving career success? Listening is much more important than many of us like to think.
Beginning during my PhD training as a psychologist, and over the following two decades as a leadership advisor, I observed five degrees of listening skills. Here they are, from worst to best:
You Talk Instead Of Listen. It’s tough to listen when you are the one making all of the sounds in the room. Don’t be the one doing all the talking.
You Just Listen And Never Respond. Your future boss may think you are not smart enough to keep up or you don’t care, if you just sit there and don’t talk. Not talking is not the same thing as actively listening.
You Nod And Say, “Mmm-Hmm.” Oh good, at least there is a pulse in you. But just nodding and making noises is not insightful and does not build rapport.
You Reflect On What You Heard. Just say what they said. If they said, “Our growth strategy is primarily through international expansion,” then a pure reflection would be to say, “So, your growth strategy is international.” Your future boss will say, “Yep,” and will be only mildly impressed with you.
You Reflect On The Emotion Behind The Statement. Imagine if your future boss just told you the industry is changing fast and the company has been struggling to match that pace. She told you this with a frown on her face.
With degree five listening, you can respond by saying, “It sounds like everything is changing quickly. It must be stressful keeping up.” Your future boss will say, “Yes, it is.” Then you add, “You need to count on your team and know they can keep up with the speed of change.” Your future boss will say, “Exactly.”
Once you first hear the word “exactly,” the probability you will receive a job offer is at least 80%. That is because your future boss feels you understand them, you care and you are the person to deliver them something good (like results) or to remove something bad (like stress).
Dr. Geoff Smart is the chairman and founder of ghSMART, a leadership consulting firm that exists to help leaders amplify their positive impact on the world. Dr. Smart and his firm have published multiple New York Times best sellers. He stays active in his community and has advised many government officials.