/ Pratik Mallya

Listen More

One of the most impactful changes in my work behavior is: listen more at work. It sounds pretty dumb now that I write it down; why wasn’t I just listening better before? While I’m not a professional psychologist, I can make an educated guess: likely, it was due to:

At some point, I changed by behavior in personal relationships to listen more and try to really understand what the person talking is trying to communicate, to focus on the intentions, actions and behavior instead of taking words at face value. This gives a much more holistic view of where others are coming from. It’s very easy to know when others listen to you versus when they merely hear the words that you say. Unfortunately, people won’t always tell you that you’re a bad listener: they will just not communicate with you as much anymore. Which is reasonable: they have their own lives to worry about without having to coach someone else on how to listen better.

More concretely, not listening to stakeholders can lead to many inefficiencies and disappointments. An eagerness to do exciting technical work is amazing, but it can also be terribly disappointing if you build something that doesn’t really solve the problem; a lose-lose strategy. Listening to coworkers and stakeholders lets you work through the design, catch problems early. But perhaps the biggest benefit: it allows you to really question whether the ask and to reject most of the asks that can be solved more effectively in other ways. This is where listening is really beneficial: you avoid unwanted work while also delivering on the ask. This leaves you free to work on the technical work that does absolutely need to be worked on.

Somewhat related habit is that of note taking and documenting everything. One of my coworkers has the habit of taking notes for everything, documenting all associated work in the tracking system. At first, I wondered what the need was for it. But then, 6 months in, its very easy to follow the train of thought that might have lead to the design decisions made then. The historical context is not lost: the lessons learned then can be remembered again, preventing the same mistakes.

Listen more and take down notes. 2 habits that can profoundly affect one’s effectiveness.