The Difference Between Hearing and Listening

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of listening to product professionals lately and had a recent experience that brought that point home for me.

A co-worker and I were talking about our notes from a recent meeting. She pulled up her OneNote and read back to me word-for-word what was said. My notes looked like an art project (I use a sketch pad for note taking). I had scribbled down some models. I wrote objectives. I made lists of pain points. I documented how someone felt. I furiously underlined things that appeared to be important to them. Our note taking was very different and I realized it’s a great example of hearing vs listening.

She was hearing the words that were being said and documenting them. I was listening to what was being said and attempting to identify their source – pain, opportunity, money concerns. I was documenting things that were unsaid that could help my customers “get real” with their actual needs.

As product professionals, we must move past just hearing what our customers say. We must listen to what and how they are saying it. As coaches and managers of product professionals, we must help our teams build skills that help them go beyond simply hearing a request and taking action on it. Anyone can follow instructions. The value of your product team is to design and deliver solutions that delight (ok, I hate that word) customers. We do that when we listen to what they aren’t saying so we can help them identify the real problems to solve.

Happy listening!

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