​Don't Go to Talk to Somebody. Go to Listen

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​Let me tell you a story. It applies whether you are a risk officer, internal auditor, compliance professional, or even a manager of people.

One of my best audit managers (at a prior company) returned from a meeting with the head of procurement, saying that the meeting had gone well and she was ready to wrap up the audit. I was both pleased (because she was finishing early) and surprised (because I suspected they were problems and she had not found anything).

Later that afternoon, I ran into the procurement manager and asked him about the meeting. He said he was extremely disappointed. The manager had gone through a list of questions and once they were finished had closed the meeting. He told me that there were some serious issues he wanted to talk to her about, but she never gave him a chance.

The auditor had gone to talk to him. She did.

She didn't go to listen to him. He was not heard.

There are a lot of stories like this I could tell, but the message is clear:

  1. If you are talking more than half the time, maybe even more than a quarter of the time, when you meet with management or staff, you are talking too much and listening too little.
  2. Learn how to listen. Take classes. Listen actively, with your eyes (for body language) as well as your ears. You are not listening if you are just waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can say something.
  3. Make time to listen, and monitor yourself to make sure you are.
  4. At the end of every meeting, make sure — by asking — whether you have heard everything the other person wants to say.

Do you have two mouths and one ear?

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