On Listening and Career Success

Barack Obama was recently Tom Brokaw’s guest on MSNBC’s Meet the Press.

What struck me as I watched and listened to Obama wasn’t how well he speaks, although he clearly possesses the ability to articulate knowledge and ideas. What immediately became apparent was how well he listens.

Strange as it may sound, you could see Obama listening to Brokaw, and watch as he considered the questions asked of him. Then, wonder of political wonders, he actually answered those questions.

People tend to think of communication skills in terms of speaking ability. But a big part of communicating is listening.

And here’s the important point: Listening, a so-called soft skill, figures heavily in job success—for people in every job, at every level.

Earlier this year, in connection with an article for Thomson Reuters’ HRWire, I interviewed Dan Bobinski, president of Leadership Development Inc. and director of The Center for Workplace Excellence, a workforce and management training firm. Bobinski shared an interesting factoid: Between 30 and 50 percent of work that consultants do for clients is do-over work because they didn’t listen and understand what the clients wanted.

Bobinski is such a strong believer in the link between listening and success on the job that he always tests for listening as part of the job interview process.

Perhaps it’s not a bad model to use for other work-related relationships as well. When trying to decide whether to take on a business partner or a client; when considering a new job and new boss; or, prior to joining a committee, look for listeners.

Naturally, the other side of the desk applies here, too. Work on developing your listening skills. By doing so, you might just hear the sound of success.

Paula Santonocito
Career Editor, SingleMindedWomen.com