Three advantages of becoming a great listener

Have you noticed a decrease in casual, unhurried conversations about work, like the projects you’re working on or what you may find exciting on the horizon in your field or at the company?

You may still ask the obvious, “Hey, what’s new with you?” or “How’s that project going?” but I’m talking about a level deeper, rooted in unhurried genuine curiosity.

If you want to advance your career and find new opportunities at work, here are three advantages to slowing down and making this a bigger priority (besides the obvious one about forging a deeper, more authentic relationship with the people you work with!):

  1. FIND NEW OPPORTUNITIES – Most new job opportunities come from people you know. When you chat up your peers at work, you may find out that they know about a new opportunity or know someone to introduce you to. You may share an interest in an area that is not related to your current job but is something you’ve been exploring on the side. For example, I once asked our CEO what he was working on and he told me about a new product line that he was exploring. I was able to get a new job by later going back to him with my skills in that area. That’s how I had the opportunity to create our online learning product. I kid you not.
  2. FIND OUT WHERE YOU CAN ADD VALUE IN YOUR CURRENT ROLE – When you chat up your peers and those above you on the ladder, you may get ideas about where you can add more value, things that need to be done but no one is doing. For example, when I was a Project Manager, I came up with a standard list of questions that all our writers could use when they were interviewing Subject Matter Experts. I know it sounds obvious, but no one had ever done that before, so I added a ton of value and made our custom materials much easier to use in the classroom. I would not have known it was a problem if I hadn’t asked our trainers questions about the materials.
  3. FIND OUT WHERE YOU CAN MAKE YOUR CURRENT PROJECTS MORE EFFICIENT – You may find out details about the projects you’re already working on that may benefit from a fresh look. For example, our shipping guy was sending everything out overnight regardless of priority. If someone said, “I need that tomorrow,” he would send it overnight. He came up with one question, “Overnight is significantly more expensive, can I send this 2-day instead?” At least 50% of the time he found out that was fine, which saved the company a HUGE amount in shipping fees.

This starts with your mindset, finding ways to be genuinely curious, especially about things that you may not be involved in but are within your sphere of interest.

Once you engage in a conversation, try using different questions that draw out new and interesting information from the other person.

Here are some examples:

  • What are you working on? (the obvious opening question!)
  • What do you like about that?
  • Are there things you’d change if you could?
  • What do you think the future holds for your division/industry? Are there break-throughs or new theories about it?
  • What are you learning about/studying?
  • If you could start over with a different path, what would you do?
  • If money was no object, what would you do?

We relate to one another by jumping in with an example of our own to show that we have something in common, “Oh, you had a client never return your call today?! ME TOO!!!”

The key to listening and connecting is to resist that temptation and ask a follow-up question instead.

It takes more time. So we’re back to our too-busy-busyness where we don’t have time for casual, unhurried conversations about our work.

I’m sure you have a ton of examples of your own, I’d love to hear them! Hit reply and tell me your favorite example or success story when you try it out.

Warmly,
Melissa

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