Business Brief asks Presidents, CEOs, Owners and Leaders of companies located at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (VTCRC) one question… “What key lesson have you learned in business that would help others?”
Please enjoy Ron Poff’s perspective on the question…
I believe that there are many key lessons that I have learned over my formal business experience; however, one of the critical key lessons that I attempt to practice on a daily basis centers on listening. Listening seems like such a simple task and one task that we all utilize in all aspects of our lives – both professionally and personally. BUT, do we listen effectively?
The motto that I try to deploy in my everyday life is:
“LEARN TO LISTEN. LISTEN TO LEARN”
Each statement above is different in nature but delivers powerful outcomes if practiced effectively. I have to admit that this is not my own original motto but one that I adopted during my military training in the US Navy. I was taught that being ‘one’ and not a ‘team’ could cause life-threatening consequences. In addition, not learning from one another and also listening to others – meaning using effective communication, then there could be a life and death situation arise. Certainly within business, we may not be faced with life-death situations like those outlined during my military training; however, the theory and practice of listening is the key point.
Learn to Listen
This statement is simple to make BUT is difficult to practice. As we all grow and mature, not only by age, but also academically, by our life experiences, by our business experiences and various other inputs, we all develop a knowledge base that helps to shape who we are as a person. When we engage with others, we bring this knowledge base to the discussion and situation; however, sometimes this knowledge base shapes assumptions or a bias that may interfere with being open-minded or may be a hurdle to listening to others.
For example, as a sales leader, I speak with customers on a regular basis. They have issues and challenges that they need solved. One of my first reactions is to ‘hear’ what they are saying but to then immediately ‘solve’ their challenge with the best solution possible. I am providing an immediate solution based on my experiences and while this may be the perfect solution for them, did I take the time to fully learn their problem.
I recite this statement several times during the week – it actually is effective on a personal level as well. How many times do our loved ones say, “Are you listening to me?” We sometimes forget that many people are just looking for a listener – it is about them and not us. As a sales leader, I remind myself often, it is about the customer not our company’s goals, quotas or even my own agenda. Listen!
Bottom Line – when meeting with colleagues and customers, give them your full attention. Clear your mind and LISTEN.
Listen to Learn
Once we have been able to master the art of listening, then we need to listen to what the other party is saying – or ‘Listen to Learn’. In the example of the customer, if I am listening effectively, then what is the customer saying to me. What are their issues and challenges? With a clear mind and a truly effective listening process, I should be able to learn about them – where are their struggles or where do they need help or support. Therefore, by learning from them, I should be able to step back and think what the best possible solution that our organization can provide to them. In addition, if I listen closely, I should be able to obtain their organizational culture, their buying process and many other key factors that will help to drive the solution and sell more effectively. I would also mention there are some ‘soft’ interpersonal skills the customer or other party will observe and trust will be gained since having the ability to listen and even learn from listening is a unique skill set that many business professionals do not possess; therefore, if you are able to adopt this skill, then you can position yourself as a stronger business leader than most.
Bottom Line – it sounds simple but listening and learning from others will help to drive a more effective business environment which will ultimately lead to success.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to share my perspective and experience!
About Mar-Bal Inc.
2020 Kraft Drive, Suite 3003
Mar-Bal, Inc., headquartered in Chagrin Falls, OH, is the leading integrated compounder and molder of BMC Thermoset composite products and value added finishing services. Mar-Bal has been recognized asone of America’s fastest growing companies for 2 consecutive years (2013, 2014). Since 1970, Mar-Bal has engineered and manufactured quality, customized materials and parts while delivering unmatched client cost-effectiveness through superior customer service and commitment to the total value. Mar-Bal, an ISO 9001:2008 Registered Company, serves the appliance, electrical, industrial, food service and transportation industries from their four facilities in North America and their Asia Sales Office located in Shanghai, China. Mar-Bal, The One-Source Solutions provider of BMC Thermoset Composites, continues to research and formulate advanced materials, develop innovative products and has a portfolio of brands and proprietary products delivering composite solutions and enabling our customer’s technology and success.