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Unlocking Potential through Listening

Updated: Jan 3, 2020

Written by: Larry Goodfellow

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To sum up market research online communities I would say that they are a tool that allows you to listen and understand. In business, as in relationships, the best thing a person or business can do is to listen and understand. Recently, in Harvard Business Review there was a very interesting article entitled, The Best Mentors Think Like Michelangelo by W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith in which the authors looked at a key attributes successful mentors share. This attribute is looking at the potential in a mentee and seeing what they could be, rather than what they currently are. It is in seeing this potential and confirming what could be that can lead to real dramatic change. This concept of seeing what is, requires real listening and requires self projection to be checked at the door. The similarities between being customer-centric and this form of mentorship are profound.

Unlocking the Potential

Johnson and Smith write that “the Michelangelo phenomenon, a skilled and thoughtful relationship partner becomes committed to first understanding and then reinforcing or drawing out another’s ideal form.” Making this phenomenon become reality requires the mentor to truly listen and understand what the mentee’s ideal self is. The second is behavioural affirmation, so that the behaviours that are leading to that ideal self are constantly confirmed.

Your Mentee Doesn’t Need to Be Like You

The article goes on to discuss the challenge of mentoring someone of the opposite gender. While it is a challenge, the authors state that it can be done. They write, “one reason for this may be that when it comes to key interpersonal skills such as listening, men sometimes struggle with the sort of active listening required to help a mentee gradually unearth her ideal self.” Another challenge faced by men in the mentor relationship is that they tend to give advice that reflects what they would do or have done rather than understanding the mentee and helping them make the best decision for themselves.

The article goes on to explain that the mentor should help the mentee when they are aiming too low or selling themselves short to paint a more bold, inspiring picture. This can help the mentee think about possibilities not contemplated before. The true challenge is staying objective with your mentee as much as possible and helping them become the best person they can be. Like in life, so in business this relationship has so many parallels with being customer-centric.

Businesses struggle to listen, and truly understand their customers needs. So often the management listens but holds on to their preconceived ideas and immediately jump to conclusions drawing on their past experiences. A good business, like a good mentor, checks those preconceived ideas at the door and listens, asking in-depth questions on an ongoing basis. For businesses, this can be done through qualitative market research using such things as online discussions, and online diaries. Whatever the method, the goal is the same, to truly listen.

If you would like to find out more about how market research online communities can help you, please feel free to contact us.

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