2 Ears, 1 Mouth: The Importance of Listening as an Entrepreneur
As an entrepreneur you will face a magnitude of challenges, difficulties, and problems to be solved on a daily basis. Whether it be a brand new startup, or an established business; challenges are commonplace. This makes the ability to listen and learn extremely valuable in the world of business. Being an effective listener as an entrepreneur can save you from plenty of headaches. At the root of it; listening entails extracting key information from people who have it. Whether it be mentors, colleagues, partners, acquaintances, or even reading books; the ability to extract information from people is an essential ingredient to being successful.
As an entrepreneur it is vital that you are always innovating and encouraging creativity. New ideas are the bread and butter to a successful business. Being an effective listener can actually stimulate your mind enough to generate new ideas. Keep your ears open, and you may just come across an effective innovation to your business.
Listening allows you to detect problems early on. For example, if you listen to the frustrations an employee of yours has had with the recent workload; it puts you into better position to take action/discuss the situation further – before it worsens. Failure to listen can allow under the radar problems to blossom into substantial complications.
Listening is the only way to find product-market fit. Often times new entrepreneurs come to the market with their business idea; just as often the market rejects the idea or fails to seriously acknowledge it. New entrepreneurs will have a lot more success by letting the market come to them with a business idea. How does the market come to you with an idea you may ask? By listening to them. You must listen to your customers, their frustrations, their favorites, etc. and only then can you determine if you have enough demand and a true product-market fit.
How to be an Effective Listener:
- Be Mindful
Often times people make the mistake of focusing more on what to say next than actually being attentive and recognizing what the person they are conversing with is actually saying. It is very important to be mindful as a listener – be aware, and really focus on acknowledging and understanding the information that is being communicated to you. Before you speak, take a short pause to gather your thoughts – then communicate to your partner; it is better to take this pause than to focus your thoughts on what you will say next while your partner is still speaking.
- Reflective Listening
Paraphrasing what was said to you allows you to clarify that you have interpreted the information correctly. This gives the opportunity to the person you are conversing with to either affirm or invalidate your interpretation of what they said. Reflective listening is an excellent way of clarifying that you are on the same page; thus making it easier for you to gather your thoughts and communicate beyond this point.
- An Open Mind
Going into a discussion with predetermined convictions (stubbornness) is extremely detrimental to your ability to listen. You must have an open mind. By no means am I saying you cannot predict what will transpire/how the conversation will go, however; you should not go into a discussion with strong determination against new ideas. Having an open mind means you release yourself from assumptions, and position yourself in a place of curiosity. An open mind in discussion will bring you a surplus of knowledge.
Books are a very underrated source of information. In the day in age where YouTube, Podcasts, and other forms of digital media have become mainstays; books remain valuable as ever. At the core of it; authors spend entire lifetimes learning the information they ultimately write into books for YOU to listen to. In a few days you can finish a book and have extracted a lifetimes worth of knowledge; IF you listen.