Getting a job means teaching yourself new tasks and becoming better at those tasks. But not every task is easy. The downside to absorbing wisdom from others: You can only imitate what they do. It’s not about plagiarism, says Kim Parker, executive coach and author of How to Be an Organizational Trauma Detox . It’s about listening. She found that workers benefit more from learning things they have mastered than things they just learned. As president of Parker + Associates, a management consulting firm that focuses on work-life balance, Parker helps companies with workplace culture and costs by helping leaders and employees learn to listen.
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Maybe it’s a new way to filter news. If you’re going to be a professional leader, people will look to you first for information, says Parker. “Listening is probably one of the most important things leadership can do,” she says. “Knowing how to learn while you’re doing your job allows you to grow and become a better employee.” Here are some ways to learn things you didn’t learn in school.
Try not to watch or listen to the audio only. A story is like an aneurysm: It’s an old victim you experience every day, explains Parker. An aneurysm requires that you keep nourishing it, so don’t cut out the audio. “You need to think of a situation and then project forward,” she says. “Here are some reasons your boss sounds the way she does. Remember what you heard about this particular situation and create a story to present.”
Have someone help you. Before listening to the story, review the story with a trusted mentor, says Parker. “Rather than take the story as a the problem or the problem as a solution, your mentor will ask you to identify the three things you heard that led to the impact,” she says. “That way you can tell yourself, ‘I need to trust my mentor and seek support for my decision.’”
Interview fellow employees. Lead by example by asking questions to your co-workers to see how they interview, Parker says. “I used to ask my clients, ‘Do you ever think someone is trying to trick you?’ They wouldn’t, but I thought about that question often.”
Learn from your mistakes. The next time you hear someone say the same thing over and over again, think about the sounds that come out of your mouth, says Parker. “Say to yourself, ‘I am that person.’ That voice can be easily filtered out. You need to learn to focus on the tiny things that have little impact. This is what you’re paying attention to.”
Ask a few questions about your goals. Never be afraid to ask questions, says Parker. “You should open conversations to seeking better insight from others.”