My pinna, vestibule and cochlea need to be in good shape for my secret weapon to work, and I might be cheating as I have two.
I am, of course, talking about my ears. The skill of active listening is invaluable to me every day and, without my secret weapons, I couldn’t do my job, or frankly achieve much at all.
I learned from an early age that it wasn’t those who are good at filling the voids in a conversation or those who are most vocal who have the best ideas, answers or advice. Rather, it’s the people who listen – to their colleagues, clients, friends and, importantly, those who share differing opinions – as it enables them to learn something new every day, foster healthy debate and understand what motivates people.
And when I say listening, I mean really listening. Being in the moment and focusing with all your attention on what the other person is saying, without checking your phone, worrying about your answer or contemplating your next meeting.
It’s not easy – in fact, it’s hard work and, like a sport, needs frequent practice.
I run regular listening sessions with our employees. I ask three simple questions: What’s working? What’s not? And what can we do differently?
It’s difficult not to respond but the goal of these sessions is just to listen. By creating an open, honest and constructive culture where we all listen, insights and creativity will flow. It sounds simple, but actively listening to a customer to deeply understand their business objectives, challenges, opportunities and market dynamics is the only path to offering them meaningful advice.
I’ve learned not to be afraid of the silences. In fact, they can often be used to nudge someone to open up and reveal more.
As the Greek philosopher Epictetus put it: "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."
Josh Graff is the UK country manager and vice-president EMEA at LinkedIn.