Listening: An Essential CEO Skill

by / ⠀Startup Advice / May 13, 2013

Entreprenuerial ListeningAs an entrepreneur or CEO, the success of your organization relies upon your interaction with the people around you. You will need to build strong relationships with investors, employees, suppliers, customers and advisors if you want to survive. One of the most important talents required to establish these connections is the delicate art of listening.

I adapt many of the following strategies from the writings of the world’s greatest salesman, Joe Girard. He is a legend in his field so he certainly knows a thing or two about dealing with people. If you follow these steps, you should see a noticeable improvement in your ability to understand and captivate others.

1.)  Keep your mouth closed

Step number one is common sense yet remarkably difficult at times. When you listen intently, remember that the floor is no longer yours. If ever in doubt, shut your mouth and open your ears—let the other person do the talking. “Silence is golden.”

2.)  Be as observant as possible

Good listening is more than simply hearing what the speaker has to say. For example, note small details like the condition of the other person’s hand during your initial handshake, the smell of their perfume, the clothes they are wearing and their mannerisms during conversation. You should never jump to conclusions; but you can, however, begin to piece your observations into a much clearer picture of the person you are listening to.

3.)  Maintain eye contact

Every good CEO should master this step because eye contact is an absolutely critical skill for any leader. You need to show the other person that you are 100% tuned in to what they have to say. Never break your eye contact.

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4.)  Use mindful body language

The way that you position yourself during a conversation will tell how well you are actually listening. Keep a good posture and constantly check your body language to show your interest in the discussion. Don’t slouch in your chair; instead, move closer to the edge of your seat as an outward sign of your attentiveness.

5.)  Become a mirror

Mirror the speaker’s gestures whenever the timing seems right. If they laugh, you should laugh. If they nod, you should nod. This non-verbal communication builds rapport and shows the speaker that you understand where they are coming from.

6.)  Don’t interrupt

Plain and simple: nobody wants to be interrupted by a listener. No matter how much you disagree with what you hear, give the other person time to communicate his or her ideas before voicing your own opinions.

7.)  Avoid distractions and concentrate

If you feel that phone vibrate, don’t even think about reaching for it. The same goes for other noise and visual distractions. I know this can be very difficult, but try your best to stay focused even during unusual interruptions. The easiest way to lose someone’s trust is to noticeably forfeit your complete and undivided attention to the story.

8.)  Listen “between the lines”

There is usually much more you can deduce from a conversation than just the words on the surface. You can identify a person’s true needs by listening to the message behind the story. You’ll have to identify emotions and make many inferences to do this.

When the listening is done, you sometimes receive a perfect opportunity to take action. Find some way to prove that you understand your speaker by showing them that you actually care.

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If you’re interested in learning many other great people skills, check out Girard’s best sellers: How to Sell Anything to Anybody, 13 Essential Rules of Selling and Mastering Your Way to the Top.

Mike Darche is a 21-year-old student at the University of Notre Dame whose mission to inspire other like-minded young entrepreneurs.

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About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.