Listen More Than You Speak

I have received a lot of great advice in my life and over the course of my career, but one of the most impactful pieces of advice I’ve received is to “listen more than I speak.” This can sometimes be a challenge for a chatty person like me, but something I’ve worked hard at over the years. Following this advice has proven quite useful in all aspects of my life, especially in playing a leadership role in my career.

Actively listening and being curious about what the other person has to say often leads me to learn something from the discussion, and it makes the other person feel heard and valued. We all have diverse backgrounds and varying viewpoints and approaches to tackling an issue, and I have found that making my teams feel comfortable speaking up and genuinely listening to them sometimes reveals a solution to an issue that I might not have considered. A junior associate recently raised his hand to flag an issue I had not thought of, and we ultimately changed how we responded to a matter based on his sound observation. It saved us time on the backend, and I’m sure it made him feel heard and appreciated.

Sometimes it’s not all about work at all. It’s about learning things about people’s lives that are important to them. Whether it’s learning about their children, favorite past time, background, or the struggles they are facing, I find that it’s all valuable. It allows me to be more thoughtful in our interactions, whether I’m asking about something they previously mentioned or recognizing the need to be flexible on an assignment deadline because of a personal issue someone is facing. It facilitates deeper connections that lead to positive working relationships, and often, friendships.

I’m constantly learning things about people who have different backgrounds from myself and always find myself wanting to know more. Although I’m sure I don’t always get it right, I am often sought out for a listening ear and told how much people trust me and appreciate that I genuinely care. I’m sometimes surprised by how much of a positive impact this has on my relationships, but it’s clear to me that taking this advice to heart has truly made me a better leader. I know the people I work with well enough to know who needs positive reinforcement, who needs to be challenged, and who needs to feel inspired, and I take my best shot at responding accordingly. I hope this approach has led to a better working environment for my teams. It has certainly been a big plus for me.