I believe that I am a good listener. Through the years I have learned a lot of valuable things from listening. Like many, I learn more when I am listening than when I am speaking. Listening has served me well in business, particularly internationally when I am dealing with people with a variety of accents. I hate having to ask people to repeat themselves because I haven’t been able to understand them, so I listen hard all the time.
Listening has helped me to appreciate a lot of nuance in language. I understand more about people’s perspectives from the words they choose to use. I sometimes gain perspective from what people don’t say as well. Questions in particular demand a lot of attention. If I can understand what I am being asked, then my answer can be more targeted and appropriate.
One question that really causes me to think before I answer is did you have a good day? On the surface it seems to be a very simple question. “How was your day? Did you have a pleasant day? Did you enjoy your day?” could all be variations on the original question, but that’s not how I hear the question. Instead I hear it as how did you behave and perform today? It’s a question that I ask myself daily and that prompts regular and deep reflection.
For me, this level of reflection keeps me accountable every day. At work I want to answer positively about what I have been able to accomplish. Did I create something? Did I move a project or activity forward? Did I resolve a problem? Did I serve a customer? I operate under the principle of adequate daily progress, looking to accomplish something each and every day.
Probably more important than what I get done is how I get things done. It’s no secret that nothing happens without people, so how progress is made through people is important. Do I support people and their development? Do I appreciate their contributions and perspectives, even as they may be disagreeing with me? Do I do all that I can to create an enabling environment? Do I provide valuable input and feedback? Did I learn something today?
By taking stock every day I try to keep myself honest. I try to not let things slip, and I work hard to stay on top of my relationships. Don’t mistake this for my thinking that I am perfect – far from it. But the daily review and reflection helps me be better than I otherwise would be.