In praise of listening

Robert Nardelli – Founder, Chairman & CEO at XLR-8 – recently shared in a LinkedIn article the best advice he was ever given that helped advance his career. The advice came from his former boss and mentor, the legendary Jack Welsh.

And what were the words of wisdom that made all the difference in his life and career? Simple: Keep listening. Keep learning. And remember.

In greater detail, here is what Robert Nardelli learned. In his words:

1. Listen much more than you talk. This may seem counter-intuitive (how can you ask questions and seek out new answers if you don’t keep asking questions?), but it’s not. Ask what you’d like to know, and then be quiet. It’s easy to have a rapid-fire list of questions, but people tend to talk less when they know you aren’t really listening, but instead are lining up the next question. I love the quote, “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply.”

2. Don’t be too selective. Don’t seek out people who are just like you, even though that’s your natural inclination. The wider the range of people you engage, the more you’ll learn and grow.

3. If you want the real story, ask the people who actually do the work. I realize I’m characterized by most employees as a “corporate suit,” so I’m certainly not looking in any way to denigrate our leadership teams. That said, one of the best ways to learn a company’s challenges and get a feel for the culture is to talk with the employees who deal with customers every day. As wise business author Gary Heil told me, “The front line never lies.”

4. Remember what you learned. Seeking advice is of little value if you don’t make use of it – and you can’t do that unless you remember it. If you’re one of those people who is not gifted with a “steel trap” type of memory, find a way to quickly and easily create some record of the ideas and advice you garner. Thankfully, smart phones are great for this. Whether you record a message to yourself, write yourself a note or send yourself an e-mail, capture what you’ve learned.

To read Robert Nardelli’s full account, click here: Best advice: Listen, learn, lead.

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