My SFSU Business Communication students learn three rules to Business Success in their first class session:
(1) Listen Carefully
(2) Read Carefully
(3) Follow ALL Directions
The suggestion to students — and everyone — that active listening is a skill can be easily disregarded as many people simply hear the tip and move on.
That is, they get ready for the next “rule” without really understanding the implications, and the difficulty, of what it means to really listen.
An earlier post of mine When communication adds up to a big fat zero proposed that all the new technology and accompanying tools and tactics were of little value if strategic planners did not first begin by Listening Carefully to online voices in their community.
This advice reverberates through the web in social media blog posts countless times every day. Today, in fact, a Brian Solis update on my Facebook stream pointed to PR 2.0 guest poster Michael Brito‘s rant against companies that listen but don’t act.
Rule Number One: LISTEN CAREFULLY
Last evening’s rigorous SFSU Business Communication class [we were learning to write business reports] was sweetened with an anecdote from one student who had really learned the power and rewards of LISTENING CAREFULLY at work that very afternoon.
New to his position in a downtown business, my student was invited to a meeting featuring a high level executive from headquarters. He [we'll call him Adam, not his real name] had heard that this exec was noted for long, sometimes very dry speeches. But Adam was determined to pay close attention and practice all the “active listening” tips we had discussed in class.
“It was hard because lots of my coworkers were chatting and not paying attention, but just the same I wanted to focus on what was being said. I kept thinking about how important that was,” Adam told me.
The speaker did go on and on. And as hard as it was for Adam to keep his focus, he managed to do it . . .
And then the speaker stopped, looked around the room, and asked “Who heard what I just said?”
There was silence.
Adam cautiously raised his hand and repeated the last few facts related by the speaker, who acknowledged the response and asked Adam to stay behind after the meeting.
Adam was terrified, but not for long. After the meeting, the executive shook his hand, asked for his name and position, and said:
Good job, Adam. I’m going to be looking out for you. You are bound to go far in this company.
Adam was overjoyed and naturally was bursting to tell me. I was overjoyed and bursting to tell my audience — both Adam’s classmates and my blog readers.
What would our business and personal lives be like if we ALL made even small efforts to listen carefully when people were talking to us and with us?
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