Recently I was engaged by a major professional services firm to provide client effectiveness coaching and improve communications skills among its industry thought leaders. This firm provides nationally known experts who are uniquely qualified and possess an impressive list of industry specific credentials and sells to major corporations, who regularly engage these experts from this firm to help solve substantial business problems. One of my client’s experts was invited to meet with the Chairman/CEO of a Fortune 50 Company. I attended to assess this expert’s effectiveness.
After introductions, the expert initiated a presentation — speaking nonstop, reviewing multiple slides and hardly taking a breath for 35 minutes. The Chairman/CEO was attentive at first. Then his body language quickly evolved into disinterest and distraction. Yet he said nothing, as did I. Ultimately, the Fortune 50 leader stood up, indicated he had another meeting, thanked us, and left the room. What was to be a one-hour meeting was cut short. It was clear to me that my client’s “expert” had dropped the ball with this important business opportunity.
After leaving the building, the expert was extremely positive about how things had gone. When I told him that the meeting was a disaster, he didn’t accept it. He failed to see how his focus on talking, rather than listening, turned off the Chairman/CEO. One week later, the office of this same Chairman/CEO called me to set a time for a follow-up discussion. The message he conveyed: “Leave your expert at home. But if you are as smart as he says you are, I will need your help.” This Chairman/CEO had perceived that I was the subject-matter expert when, in actuality, I am not! I had said nothing. Re-enforcement of a great lesson: Two ears, one mouth! Listening is the most powerful communication skill one can master, and possibly the easiest. Listen and prosper!