7 Habits Series - Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Talk Less, Listen More
Let's move on. I could go on forever about these as I'm very passionate about this subject. I highly recommend you read Covey's book and do more research on these topics.
One of the great ones that Covey used was Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. I really don't want to rewrite that one, so I call it - Talk Less, Listen More.
As I told you, I was head of global Six Sigma. I used to train masters around the globe. I would teach master black belt classes. I spent quite a bit of time on the road, and I would mentor people through their master black belt.
One thing that we used to do was set up sessions with the engineers at the different engineering centers around the globe. Most of the people I worked with would say the same thing to myself and to Frank, my peer, they would say,
You don't talk much.
I would look at them. I'm an extrovert. I like to talk. I talk a lot.
"No no no," they would say. "When meeting with engineers you don't talk much."
Oh, yeah you're right. I'd listen. Then I would look at them and say, "You talk too much."
You see, your job as a leader is not to solve other people's problems. It is to help them solve their problems. Therefore I was solving problems with people, not for people.
And then later, when I would ask the engineers after experts came in, what were their complaints about the experts. It was usually that there was too much talking. And if you've worked for a multi-national company, you've had experts from some consultant company come in and talk to you, tell you how great you are, listen to some of your things, repackage what you told them and sell it to your leaders.
I just go,
Ah. Come on. Just don't talk too much, because when you're talking, you're not listening. What you want to do is bring some skills and knowledge to the program. The lady across the table brings some skills and knowledge, you bring some skills and knowledge, your other colleagues bring some, we all bring different things to the table. What we want to do is combine all these skills and knowledge and come up with a great solution.
So your job is to ask a lot of questions. Don't be afraid to look stupid. That's what a lot of people say, don't you feel stupid? No, I don't feel stupid. I would rather look stupid than open my mouth and confirm it.
What I mean by that is that I've met the experts. They say things, management loves them because they sound intelligent but when you think about what they said, you realize that it is a really stupid idea. It can't be the case.
So practice your active listening skills, pay attention, don't judge, reflect before you speak. Fight that urge to develop a response while they are still talking. Just let it go. Reflect, allow some uncomfortable silence while you think of how to reply. Rephrase or echo, echoing what they said to make sure you understand what they said and ask clarifying questions. That will take you a long long way. People will see that you are interested, that you care, and will want to work with you. It will help you generate success in the business world.