I read a recent article by Jeff Haden in Inc. online (http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/best-interview-technique-you-never-use.html), which tells of the best interview technique that most interviewers fail to use. He is writing about the simple art of listening. Too often, interviewers are so busy with the importance of their questions in their mind they fail to actually listen to their targets. A lot of interviewers even start asking the next question before the respondent is finished answering the previous question. Mr. Haden’s shared the secret used by Jim Lehrer, the famous anchor on the PBS NewsHour, which is to count to five silently after the respondent finishes before you ask the next question. What a brilliant idea. It is a natural for everyone to want to fill spaces of silence. So what do they fill it with? They fill it with more information, insight and thoughts that would be lost if not for that technique. This is so important to understanding the person you are speaking with and seeing more into their mind and the information that they are conveying. Although Mr. Haden’s perspective is that of a job interview, this technique works with many other situations. When you have a subordinate that has made a bad decision, listen for what was behind that decision to identify the root of poor choice. Such revelation will help you guide them in future decision making. When a customer turns away from your products claiming its price; listen further for what really drives that decision as you may be surprised in what you learn.
In Mr. Haden’s article, he cites a quote by Jim Lehrer to management coach Rodger Dean Duncan in the book Change-Friendly Leadership. This quote is so on the money that I will be sharing this with those whom I mentor.
“Lehrer: If you resist the temptation to respond too quickly to the answer, you’ll discover something almost magical. The other person will either expand on what he’s already said or he’ll go in a different direction. Either way, he’s expanding his response, and you get a clear view into his head and heart.”
Larry King said it best, when he said “I never learned anything while I was talking.”