How To Listen Effectively To Succeed Personally And Professionally

Two coworkers listening to each other.

An Interview With Doug Noll

Don’t just hear what you want to hear. Listen to the people who have constructive criticism, whether in your professional or personal life. Really take the time to get out of your own way and absorb what someone else is saying. Even if it’s difficult to hear, there is always a benefit to taking that constructive criticism and using it to hone in on enhancing yourself or your company. This feedback is valuable and if you really take the time to learn from it, you will avoid hearing this same criticism again.

It’s hard to be a good listener. We are programmed to want to talk, and to share. It takes effort to stop and to listen. But anyone who has achieved great success will tell you that listening is such an important quality to have. What are some ways that influential people have learned to listen, to succeed both personally and professionally? As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maurice Harary.

Maurice Harary is the co-founder and CEO of The Bid Lab, a consulting company dedicated to helping small and medium-sized businesses find, manage and build their RFPs and proposals.

His experience building a company that started with just $1,500 into a company that has grown tremendously is a great way to help with stories and pitches outside of just procurement and the RFP process. Furthermore, he has helped countless small and medium-sized businesses win their first multi-million dollar deals, and helping smaller businesses drives The Bid Lab’s mission!

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

As a middle child in a family of six children, I draw parallels between my upbringing and my love of the bidding process: both require being an expert navigator of complex situations and contrasting personalities.

I attribute this ability to the experiences I had growing up. Born and raised in New York City, I attended New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business and graduated with a degree in Business and Political Economy. I knew, however, that I wanted to see, learn and experience more than what one city had to offer. So I committed to spending semesters in both London and Shanghai. Living in foreign cities taught me about the intertwining nature of business, politics, economics and culture, which has been invaluable in my career thus far.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There is an old Japanese proverb: “Fall seven times and stand up eight.” Throughout the years as we have continued to expand and grow, there have been inevitable hiccups along the way. The key to overcoming these hiccups is that we EXPECTED them to happen. You have to be prepared for and accept bumps in the road when you are trying to do something great. What’s great is that we always get back up, even if the fall was so hard it sometimes takes a second to heal.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I was greatly impacted by the book The Go-Giver by Bob Burg. That book specifically focuses on taking the attention off of getting and redirecting your intention to giving. It’s a powerful foundational shift.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s begin with a definition of terms so that each of us and our readers are on the same page. What exactly does being a good listener mean?

A good listener is something we all think we are. But you really have to expand on that. Being a good listener doesn’t just mean hearing what another person is saying. It means digesting it, taking it in, paying attention to body language and specifically ‘hearing’ what someone isn’t saying. But the simplest definition I can give is that being a good listener means being present.

Why is effective listening such an important quality? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?

Listening is the foundation of everything. Really being able to connect with and understand another person doesn’t happen unless you are able to be fully present with them. In my job, I listen to and work with countless small and medium-sized businesses to help them grow and expand. I can’t help them if I’m not willing to listen and truly understand what makes them special so I can market that. My company is also remote by design, which means the listening starts the minute the hiring process starts. I have been able to build a terrific team because I took the time to really hear them in their interviews and I make the time to connect to them via video conference on a regular basis for one-on-one meetings. These meetings are so important to maintaining and advancing great employees while also giving me valuable feedback on my business.

From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common barriers that hold someone back from being a good listener?

We all get in our own way when it comes to listening. That’s why I put so much emphasis on being present. It’s easy to get sidetracked with the running list of to-dos in your head. It’s also incredibly easy, and common, to hear things and react to them from your perspective only. It’s important to respond rather than react. Don’t be afraid to take your time and really process what is being said so you can get the full picture and not come at communication only from your own understanding.

What are some practical techniques that have helped you become a more effective listener?

Responding and not reacting is a big one. Also, take the time mentally to really focus on the person you’re with. Before a meeting take a moment to breathe and center yourself so you can be fully present and an active listener in the conversation. You never know what wonderful things might come up when you really hear what someone is saying.

Here is the central question of our discussion. What are five ways that listening effectively can help someone succeed personally and professionally? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

1 . Don’t just hear what you want to hear. Listen to the people who have constructive criticism, whether in your professional or personal life. Really take the time to get out of your own way and absorb what someone else is saying. Even if it’s difficult to hear, there is always a benefit to taking that constructive criticism and using it to hone in on enhancing yourself or your company. This feedback is valuable and if you really take the time to learn from it, you will avoid hearing this same criticism again.

2 . You need to be conscious of and build in mechanisms to listen, and only listen. It’s a good idea to create surveys and consistently send them to your clients to hear their feedback. At The Bid Lab, we always send our clients surveys whenever we complete work. This conscious effort to invite feedback — that we really want to have — has proven invaluable in growing our business.

3 . Take the time to ask the right questions. People are often nervous to tell you what they really think or say something that needs to be said. Take your time in communication. Make sure to ask leading questions that invite people to provide genuine responses and stay present in the moment. Sometimes if you just pause before answering people will provide additional information. When you are able to show someone with your questions and thoughtful body language that you are really there to listen they feel more comfortable opening up, even if they are nervous about what they have to say.

4 . Effective listening opens you up to new experiences. It was actually my wife and Co-founder, Jordan, who suggested we start The Bid Lab. If I had shut that suggestion down, instead of really being open to what she had to say, we would have never built something like The Bid Lab which I am so proud of and passionate about.

5 . Responding and not reacting goes a long way in creating ongoing, fruitful relationships. Often, especially in tense situations, we want to react with how we feel or our thoughts on the matter. When we take the time to really absorb what someone else is saying and mull that over we can come back from a place of respect and openness that encourages further conversation and mutual understanding.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Remote work is professional work.

I, too, used to go into a 52-story skyscraper in New York City in a full suit every day. But, when I founded The Bid Lab, I remembered that the people I worked most closely with on my previous team worked out of the UK and India. Why couldn’t I work closely with people who weren’t located geographically nearby to me?

The Bid Lab is, and always has been, a remote company. While there are myriad reasons why remote work is worth championing (environmental impact, productivity, work/life balance, etc.) one of the reasons why I think it works best for The Bid Lab is because it allows us to hire from a unique pool of individuals. I’m looking at you, amazing writer, living three hours outside of Albuquerque who needs to be available to her elderly mother in the afternoons. And I’m also looking at you, sales superstar who wants to homeschool her kids, but can also sell ice to an Eskimo.

I’m proud of the fact that The Bid Lab is made up of a team of individuals who have individual needs but also a common ability to log into work wherever they may be.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I’d love to meet Jeff Dean, the head of AI at Google. We use Google products all the time, and we are currently exploring some cool ways to implement AI through our newly launched software. He is brilliant and has been with Google since 1999.

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

Check out all that we’re doing at The Bid Lab or Bid Banana. From articles in our Learning Center to our extensive list of Case Studies you can find information to grow your business or inspiration on how we’ve helped others grow theirs. You can also check us out on:

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Authority Magazine Article Link: Maurice Harary of The Bid Lab On How To Listen Effectively To Succeed Personally And Professionally