Listen with the Back of Your Neck
By Bob Burg and John David Mann
Gillian Waters, a buyer for Smith & Banks, a national chain of pet accessory stores is listening attentively to her mentor, the Coach, a short, stout fireplug of a man. They’re at the Juice Caboose where, after draining most of his glass (“Celery juice: best when drunk in the first sixty seconds”), he shares his next lesson with one word his protégée finds surprising.
“Listen. Not just with your ears. Listen with your eyes. With your posture. Listen with the back of your neck.”
“With the back of your neck,” she repeated, feeling ridiculous as she did.
The Coach cocked his head and regarded her for a moment. “When I say ‘boxing,’ what do you see?”
“Someone throwing a punch.”
“Throwing a punch. Okay. And a CEO, a person responsible for a major business employing hundreds, maybe thousands of people? What does she do there all day in her Corner Office?”
“She makes tough decisions,” she replied.
“Aha,” said the Coach. “So you’d think. But it’s not the case.
“Here’s the interesting thing about boxing: Most of it is not about throwing punches. Most of boxing is watching the other guy, sensing what he’s about to do. Sensing what he’s even thinking about doing.”
“Listening with the back of his neck,” she said.
“Exactly. And the CEO? Yes, you make the tough decisions, write big checks, take big actions. But if you’re a smart CEO, mostly what you do is watch what’s going on. In your company. In other companies. In the market. In other markets. In the world. What’s happening, what’s about to happen. What’s even thinking about being about to happen.”
“You listen,” she added, “with the back of your neck.”
“The mistake so many make when it comes to persuasion,” he said, “is that they think you do it with what’s in your head. Mostly, though, positive persuasion is about tuning to what’s in the other person’s head.”
Gillian flashed on her meeting with Jackson Hill. Whatever was going on in that guy’s head, it was still a mystery to her.
“But people can be so … opaque,” she said. “How can you know?”
He looked at her and spoke one word.
“The most effective leaders,” he said, “are those who are the best listeners. The same is true for the most effective teachers—and the most effective parents, too. They are experts at listening.”
Ouch, she thought. Was she an “expert at listening” with her daughter, Bo? She thought so. She hoped so.
“Gotta run,” said the Coach.
As she got up to leave, a thought occurred to Gillian about this man who always seemed to know exactly what she was thinking: Maybe he doesn’t read minds. Maybe he’s just a really, really good listener.
Excerpted from The Go-Giver Influencer, by Bob Burg and John David Mann, about which legendary business coach Marshall Goldsmith says, “This may be the most important Go-Giver book yet—and in today’s polarized world, it could not be more timely.” Download the first two chapters at bit.ly/GGInfluencer.