Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” ~Simone Weil

While no longer actively engaged in the investment management profession, I continue to be a member of the CFA Institute and to receive their various publications. Recently, an article from a collaborative study between the Institute and the Center for Applied Research, the independent think-tank of State Street, struck me as highly relevant to the topic of asking great questions. Here is an excerpt:

“Building a culture and environment with aligned purpose, habits, and incentives can give organizations a competitive advantage that is sustainable and will benefit clients, the providers themselves and ultimately society as a whole,” said Suzanne Duncan, global head of the Center for Applied Research, State Street. “When investment professionals are asked to deliver against inappropriate metrics on an inappropriate time horizon, their passion for markets eventually becomes divorced from their true purpose – achieving the long-term goals of the investors they serve.”

It is perhaps a blinding statement of the obvious that we can only align our professional activities to serve our clients if we are aware of their goals, both short- and long-term. All too often, in the investment business (or any other for that matter), listening is in short supply. The most charitable thing we can say is that we are excited about the services and products we sell.

It is good to believe in what we are selling. That belief is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success in business. It is just as, if not more, important to determine our clients’ needs before pitching them. And we can only do that by asking great questions. The writer James, a half brother of Jesus, neatly captured the concept of listening first before providing our opinions: “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak.”

Asking great questions, and listening to the responses, builds trust.

An important benefit of asking great questions to our clients combined with careful attention to their responses is trust building. It demonstrates to them that we actually care about them and understand that our overarching commercial purpose is to serve their needs.

I must confess that, particularly in my personal life, I am sometimes quick to speak and slow to listen. In those cases, I typically rationalize my conduct based upon strong feelings about the issue at hand. There have been times, however, when I have regretted that tendency based upon less than satisfactory outcomes as a result of opening my mouth first!

One of the greatest benefits of LeaderImpact Groups is that they are safe environments where marketplace leaders spend quality time actually listening to one another. This aspect of the groups is very attractive to many members, since we are often engaged in a frenetic world where active listening is in short supply. Do you need someone to listen to you? Consider joining a LeaderImpact Group. Find out more.

Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.