The MPW Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career? is by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.
Growing up in Texas, we had a lot of “sayings” and this one is the best advice I ever got: Never miss a chance to shut up. However, as a self–proclaimed extrovert, I often find this difficult to do. Talking has never been a problem for me. Yet as I reflect on some of the best business decisions I’ve ever made, most of them were conceived after listening to other people’s opinions and insights before making a move. In other words, I had to shut up to effectively understand the perspective of others.
Make it a discipline to listen to others, especially those with different strengths, experiences, and views. It is easy to listen to people who are similar to yourself and share the same position on issues, but it’s much harder to consider opposing views. Yet the best decisions come out of diversity of thought. In fact, when meeting people for the first time, it is always a good idea to be brief and to the point. That’s how the commonly used phrase “elevator pitch” was born. Rambling on makes you seem insecure and unfocused.
Listening is a virtue and for most of us, you have to work at being a good listener. Today, we’re all so easily distracted by our tech devices, that it has becomes even more important to stay tuned in to the person you are talking with. And while most of us pride ourselves in the fact that we can multitask, I’ve found this makes it even more difficult to truly listen and decipher body language and the meaning behind the words people choose. If you truly listen and think through what people are saying to you, your follow up will be spot on and help you develop meaningful relationships that can be useful throughout your career and life.