We’ve talked about the importance of building your skill set as you progress in your career. There is one skill that is so foundational it deserves special mention — and that is the skill of listening. Listening is absolutely essential for anyone who aspires to be an effective leader, influencer, negotiator, or teammate. If you are adept at listening, you will be better able to understand, connect with, and respond to individuals and groups. You’ll understand their motivations, concerns, and aspirations. You will be able to monitor your impact, switching gears in the moment if you need to, and you will have more information on which to base your decisions. Develop your listening skills and enhance your effectiveness.

Think about your conversations — what percentage of time are you the one doing the talking? Is it less than 25%, more than 75%, or somewhere in between? If you’re talking, by definition you are not listening. To be a better listener, start your conversations with an attitude of curiosity and the desire to learn from the other person. Ask questions, giving them enough time to respond and explain. Instead of jumping in to fill any silence that may arise, give the other person an opportunity to speak. Paraphrase what you are hearing in terms of the content as well as the emotions being expressed. At the end of the conversation, summarize the key points and any next steps that have been agreed upon. Notice the impact on the other person and the impact on your relationship. As Epictetus – a Greek Stoic philosopher in the 1st century – said: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”  Master the skill of listening as you create the career you want.

More information on this tip, and others, can be found in Lead Your Way: Practical Coaching Advice for Creating the Career You Want