(A post in my “Role Models” series.)
When I worked at Perfect Search, we had a standing joke that after the meeting agenda was done and we had given the word to adjourn, it was time to turn to Lynn and get his feedback. This joke was funny because on many occasions we’d seen Lynn ask penetrating questions after the rest of us rushed headlong through an issue and assumed all the thinking was done.
Although Lynn tolerates this joke with good grace, I think the joke isn’t really fair to him, because there’s nothing funny about thoughtful listening. The world could do with more people who’ve mastered Lynn’s skill.
I recently blogged about the importance of humility. It is not an accident that humility and active listening are closely related, and it is not an accident that the best listeners and most humble team members often make the largest (if not the most flashy) contributions to a team’s success.
Listening is a lesson that has distilled on me gradually, rather than hitting me like a thunderclap. I can’t count the number of times I’ve spoken with a colleague who listened intently to my concern or question. Such interactions often lead me to understand flaws in my own reasoning more powerfully than any argument or presentation could have–even if the listener says nothing more than “Really?” and “Oh.”
More importantly, careful listening conveys a validation and respect for others that cannot be faked. Certainly, that’s the case with Lynn.
If you believe that people are an integral part of the software discipline, or that you should understand those who interact with your product, then listening is a critical best practice.
Thanks for the lesson, Lynn.
Identify a team member who needs to be listened to more. Invest some time to learn from them or to be a sounding board.