A client recently asked me how I was able to understand them so quickly. She was curious about what advice I’d gotten that enabled me to “get integrated so quickly”. I told her the best advice I’d ever gotten was – 

“Shut up and listen. When you think you know, shut up and listen some more.” (Came from both my wife and dad at different times in life)

As a newbie employee, manager, leader, consultant or whatever one of the very best ways you can make a difference quickly is to listen. Yes, I know this isn’t a blinding flash of insight.  It’s pretty commonsensical (yes that’s a word, look it up). But we don’t do it. 

We’ve been taught to participate- share our thoughts or express our feelings. Somehow we’ve been led to believe that participating means making sounds come out of our mouths. But what if that is bull-cocky? What if we participate by mostly LISTENING?!?!? 

The only way to really understand an organization, position, team or person is to listen to what they have to say. But it’s a special kind of listening. The kind where you:

    •       Aren’t thinking of the next thing to say

    •       Aren’t thinking about why they are wrong

    •       Wondering when they’ll stop talking

    •       Etc

Then, when you think it’s your turn to talk…shut up some more! Sometimes that will mean that you don’t say anything or wait until you are asked for input.

That’s it. Listen a lot. You’d be amazed at how much you can learn just by listening. It’s a powerful tool (great TED talk by Ernesto Sirolli regarding the power of this) 

You’ll be able to craft proposals, solutions and ideas that are met with acceptance because – YOU KNOW HOW THEY THINK and you might even care a little about them. 

So remember, stop talking and listen.  

As a Partner with Great Place to Work, Anil Saxena, works with client companies on all types of organizational changes including talent management initiatives, major department reorganizations, and technology shifts developing highly successful change management programs.  He partners with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations. With 20 years of experience in organizational change, development and talent management, Saxena provides valuable insight and best practices in a common sense and easy to understand style. He focuses on ensuring that all coaching, training and development are useful and can be applied immediately.

He has held Change Management leadership positions in major companies such as BP, Discover, and Gallup. Recent clients include DeVry, True Value, CME, Purdue Calumet University, AM Castle, Underwriters Laboratories, Safer Foundation, McDonalds, Cole-Palmer, Fisher Scientific, Campbell’s, Hospira, Rotary International, and Walgreens.

Education: Anil holds a degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Mechanical Engineering and was an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change Program. Anil is a certified Change Management Professional, a Joint Application Design facilitator, and is certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. Anil is also avid blogger about leadership and change issues.

Practice Areas: Change Management, Leadership Development, Organizational Design/Development, Training Strategy, Talent Management, Strategy Development, Project Management