At a Glance
- Richard Branson believes all successful entrepreneurs are good listeners
- Encourage your team to challenge you to foster engagement and drive better results
- Master active listening and ask probing and open-ended questions to draw ideas from everyone you speak to.
“There’s a great phrase the managers of my sales teams use during meetings: ‘Feel free to challenge me, but …’ I genuinely enjoy hearing this statement from them because it means they are unafraid to speak their minds while allowing for candid discussion, further fostering a culture of engagement,” says Christian Valiulis, Chief Revenue Officer at APS. “Besides, the best information I receive doesn’t always come from a spreadsheet – it comes from what my team tells me. I can make better decisions with the help and support of my team.”
The big idea: Don’t just participate in conversations – listen
Master active listening and you’re well on your way to not only acknowledging what others have to say, but incorporating it into how the business is run. Actively listening requires you to pay attention when others are talking, whether you’re delivering feedback, listening to an idea, or in casual conversation.
“I sometimes come across people in business, especially if they have been fortunate enough to have some success, that are very fond of their own voices,” says Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. “After saying their piece, they visibly switch off from what others are saying, offering a perfunctory nod or fiddling with their phone, rather than making eye contact and really engaging. Conversely, the most successful entrepreneurs I know all have excellent listening skills in common.”
What’s in it for you: Implement successful strategies with impressive results
Actively listening to your team’s thoughts helps spark creative conversations. “I can say with total sincerity that by listening to others, my team has been able to form and implement successful strategies with impressive results,” says Valiulis.
Make it happen
Here are 3 tips on active listening from Virgin Group founder, Richard Branson, who considers listening to be one of the most important skills an entrepreneur can have:
- Be a thought partner. Listen, take advice, and work collaboratively with staff to manage the business.
- Carry a pen and notebook. Or an iPad, to note your thoughts. You never know what you might learn from simply listening to the people around you.
- Read between the lines. When engaging in conversation, take note of the speaker’s body language, facial expressions, how they say certain words – these clues can put a different spin on what the words alone might convey, says Branson in his book The Virgin Way: If It’s Not Fun, It’s Not Worth Doing.