Listen to Engage and Succeed

Jeff Clarke is the CEO of Eastman Kodak. When I was a kid, Kodak meant Brownie cameras and film. Now film accounts for only 7% of the Kodak business. Kodak is now a printing company. Their main businesses are up to date and cutting edge: printing for packaging, micro3-D printing for touchscreen sensors, commercial inkjet printing and process free printing for graphic arts.

Here are Jeff Clarke’s three biggest life and career success lessons…

  • Keep your ratio of questions to statements at 10 to 1.
  • Longer meetings have diminishing returns.
  • Patience is an overrated virtue.

Let’s talk about Jeff’s first piece of advice. Tweet 109 in Success Tweets says, “Use the 2/3 – 1/3 rule. Listen two thirds of the time. Speak on third of the time;” not the same ratio, but a similar idea. You’ve got to listen.

Listening to others and then responding appropriately is the key to becoming an outstanding communicator. I urge my career mentoring clients to do three things to engage with other people..

  1. Ask lots of questions.
  2. Really listen to what the other person is saying.
  3. Respond appropriately. Laugh if the person says something funny. Commiserate if the person reveals something that is sad. Make suggestions if you’re asked for your advice. Make sure the other person knows you are tuned in and paying attention.

Most people like to talk about themselves. That’s why listening is so important. You can gain a reputation as a great conversationalist and communicator– even if you don’t say much. Listening is that important. That’s why I like my 2/3 – 1/3 rule and Jeff Clarke suggests a 10 to 1 ratio of questions to statements.

Adding your thoughts to the conversation is fine – as long as you keep them focused on what the other person is saying. If you absolutely need to change the subject, let him or her know. Say something like, “I understand and appreciate what you’re saying. If we’re done with that topic, I need to speak with you about something else. OK?” In that way, you’re demonstrating your respect for the other person.

In her great book, CEO Material, my friend Debra Benton has a lot to say about listening and conversation. Here is a small sample…

“The best way to influence others is with your ears. If you listen in a way that causes people to feel heard, you’ll hear things right the first time, maintain the self-esteem of others, build better relationships, see nuances.

“Shut out other people and distractions, and stop thinking about what anyone else is thinking or your response. Take off your headphones, stop texting, turn off your cell phone, put away your Blackberry. Don’t doodle; fidget with your hands, arms or fingers; squirm; body rock; or get up and move around (like you have ADD). Instead, lean forward, tilt your head a little, give some eye contact, and maybe throw in a brow furrow, don’t glance around or act bored, disbelieving, or disagreeing. Just listen to the person who is talking, remember what he or she says, and say some of it back to that person later.

“Don’t quit listening if you don’t like what you’re hearing. Pay attention to complete information. Try to make sense of the data, even if you don’t agree. Not every misguided opinion needs to be corrected by you. Pick your battles, as they say. You’ll create calm for both of you — and the other person will more likely listen to you also.”

That is not only great advice on listening. It’s great career advice as well. Resolve to listen more in 2015.

Your career mentor,


PS: You can download a free copy of Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained at When you do, I give you a free basic membership in my career mentoring site and begin sending you daily motivational quotes.



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