A Few Words of Timeless Advice

February 5, 2019

The best advice I've ever been given was during a shopping trip for a work wardrobe for my first "real" job. After graduating from college, I landed a Marketing Specialist role at a large third‐party logistics provider. Only problem — the dress code was business casual…not dorm room chic.

While looking around the store, my Dad and I started talking. He started asking questions about the job, but ultimately, he used the opportunity to share career advice. He said, "Make sure that when others are talking, you're listening, not preparing the next thing to say. People are often eager to prove their value, in big meetings especially. When someone constantly talks, they can't listen, and others notice. Don't squander the value of what others are offering, and don't dilute the substance of what you say."

Ten years have passed since that shopping trip, and I still clearly remember that conversation with my Dad. I admire that at the time, he didn't try to impart technical knowledge — which as a Master Black Belt with a Fortune 500 manufacturer, he certainly would have a lot to say — but instead chose to focus on a more general life skill: communication.

When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.

—Dalai Lama

There are countless times in my first few years on the job where his advice elevated the recognition of an idea I had or prevented me from becoming "that person," in meetings. Sometimes it's easy; other times, it's been more than challenging. Time and practice have made me a better listener, which has made me a much better learner. I've heard my Dad's words echoing over the years and couldn't be more thankful that I listened.

Consider his point within the context of the Define phase of a DMAIC project. How can you accurately identify critical customer requirements if you presume to already know them? How can you address the voice of the customer if you haven't taken the time to listen to their voice?

Listening is certainly not a new or unique idea, but we can all benefit by asking ourselves, "Am I really listening?" Okay, I'll shut up now.

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