Published on

28 Dec 2023

Read time

6 minutes

Written by

Tal Zlotnitsky

As an entrepreneur and business transformation expert, I’ve learned the hard way that speaking is only half of communication – the other, often neglected half, is listening.

In the whirlwind of entrepreneurship, where ideas flow as fast as the coffee in the break room, it’s easy to get caught up in expressing our own thoughts. And, let’s face it, most of us became entrepreneurs because we think we have some great ideas and people need to hear them. Hence, we talk. A lot…

However, the assumption that we are perceived as wise and capable if we ‘know all the answers’ or can offer rapid reactions to questions and feedback is rooted in a misunderstanding. This perception overlooks how wisdom and capabilities are actually measured by others, particularly strategic partners or investors. As Jimi Hendrix once said, “knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”

I learned this lesson the hard way: A very successful investor told me I needed to consider not talking – for a year! If I followed this advice, he told me, it would unleash my strengths, which he felt were considerable, and exponentially increase my odds of success.

At first, I was taken aback and insulted. What do you mean, not talk for a year?! As I reflected on the meaning further, however, my ego unclenched. I realized that “for a year” was to get my attention and make a point, not an expectation that I take a vow of silence and move to a monastery. It took me a few days of reflection before something unexpected became clear: This investor’s advice was perhaps the most generous advice anyone had ever given me, or that I could give to others. Here’s why:

1. We Already Know What We Know. Listening more can reveal insights that talking never will. Starting every conversation with the goal of gaining more knowledge than we had going in is how we truly grow, and this requires making room to hear and absorb information from others.

2. When We Listen, We Uncover Hidden Gems: Whether it’s feedback from a prospect, a client or an idea from a team member, listening can uncover valuable information that can steer a project or business in a more successful direction.

3. Build Stronger Relationships: People want to feel heard. By listening more, we create stronger, more genuine connections with clients, investors, and employees (not to mention our spouse or children!). This builds trust and loyalty, which are crucial for long-term relationships.

4. Enhance Decision-Making: Good listening leads to a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities our business faces. This broader perspective is essential for making informed, strategic decisions.

5. Foster a Culture of Respect: When a leader listens, it sets a tone of respect and openness in the company culture. This encourages a more collaborative and innovative environment, where everyone feels their input is valued.

This journey towards better listening has been and remains challenging and humbling, and it’s a skill I’m continually working to improve. Reflecting on my path from an eager entrepreneur to an experienced business consultant, I’ve realized the importance of being a good listener was not always obvious to me. In fact, it is a lesson I need to remain mindful of after many years of speaking more than I should have. This ongoing learning process remains a key element in my personal and professional growth.

If, like me, you tend to talk too much, consider committing in 2024 to speak less and listen more. The results will surely be that you will surprise people, but it might just be you who will be pleasantly surprised most of all.

About Tal Zlotnitsky

Serial Entrepreneur Tal Zlotnitsky is currently a global transformation consultant to Fortune 500 clients, and founder of Tech Startup Breez AI. Previously, he was the co-founder & CEO of iControl Mobile, now part of ParkMobile, as well as co-founder & CEO of iControl Data, a B2B payments company, where he raised $20 million from Goldman Sachs and built an enterprise that still processes billions of dollars in annual payments for tens of thousands of retailers in all 50 states. He has also founded, co-founded, invested in and sat on the boards of Our.Love, JetComfy, Ugo, Magi Foods, NewsOne, sold in 2009 to NNA, and Current Companies, sold in 2008 to Hudson News. A proud dad and granddad, Tal believes that awareness, compassion (including self-compassion) and respect are the keys to joy and success.

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