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Effective Listening Strategies for Career Success

Listen with an outcome in mind
Andrea Danti

You need a listening strategy, because listening is dangerous. No one tells you that. When you get into an interaction, and fail to have a listening strategy, being receptive turns you into a receptacle. You’re just the recipient of other people’s concerns, personality quirks, beliefs, and goals. That means in the meeting, you get demoted to “just listening,” which is a role anyone and their dog can play.

Many successful job candidates, business people and managers have adapted an intentional listening approach, using six specific listening strategies. I profile three of those listening strategies below.

I always warn my coaching clients about “over-listening.” That’s when you listen endlessly in interviews, meetings, presentations, conversations, and pitches. Other people command all the attention and you lose any importance or significance.

The one immutable rule in business communication is to have an outcome in mind BEFORE you engage in any interaction. That is the start of employing a listening strategy.

By outcome, I mean: get a firm idea of what you want to happen by the end of the interaction. Know exactly what you want the other people to say to you or each other, before the interaction comes to a close. I coach clients to write down the exact words they want other people to speak, or an action they want to see by the end of the interaction.

These first three listening strategies help you guide an interaction toward your desired outcome. Whether you’re in a job interview, a pitch meeting to investors, conflict resolution with another employee, your annual performance review or a presentation you are giving – or attending: have an outcome in mind and a listening strategy.

Here are three strategies.

Opportunity-Response Listening
You ears are antenna for something specific you can turn to your advantage. You might ask a “magic wand” question, to prompt them to tell you what they really want. Then you listen for an opportunity that could match your goals and outcome. For example, you listen to a hiring manager go on for a while about the department and the job. Then, you say: “If you had a magic wand and you could have the ideal person come to work for you: what would that person be like?” If they say, “hard working and loyal,” then you know what facts and stories you are going to bring into the conversation.

Reflective-Mindreading Listening
You swap words around, so you re-tell your audience what they just told you, plus take a small guess at what they really need. Listen intently, so you have the exact words they use. For example, your manager says: “The last time the client was here, he complained that customer service doesn’t get bids back to him in time.” You reply, “Customer service isn’t good about timely communication on bids, so this customer came in to vent. It would be good to know the current status of the bids he’s asked for now.” Because you listened, understood and took the issue one baby step forward: you are a genius!

Collaborative-Permission Listening
You ask permission to participate and at the same time showcase your value. For example, you listen carefully to a client going on about an opportunity in a new industry. You ignore any prattle, but listen intently to estimate the size of the opportunity, how frequently it occurs, and the consequences of missing out on it. Then, you reply, “Is this very large, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the new industry something that you would like to brainstorm about? Would it be appropriate for me to share my insight, because that might help you prepare to win it?

Listening can be the biggest compliment and relationship-building tool you have. On the other hand, listening can feel like drowning in an onslaught of words. Your strategy makes all the difference.

Would you like to have all six listening strategies to use for your business or career goals? Email me at Nance@NanceRosen.com. Subject line: Listening