In Forbes’s article, “Ten Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Fail,” written by Steve Andriole, a business professor from the Villanova School of Business at the Villanova University in Pennsylvania, stated that Entrepreneurs were not smart. “Not talking about IQ here. Entrepreneurial IQ (EIQ) is about a holistic understanding of situations. Many entrepreneurs understand their idea, but not the market that will accept or reject the idea. Nor do they understand how accidental, uncontrollable, unscheduled innovation actually works. Or who the real competitors are. Often entrepreneurs have too little domain depth: they literally do not know what they’re talking about (though they often talk a good game).”
I like to address this issue from a different perspective and use an example from the movie, “The Last Samurai.” It’s a story of a 19th Century army captain named Nathan Algren played by Tom Cruise. In one scene of the movie, Cruise’s character is attempting to learn how to sword fight with wooden samurai swords. His teacher, a seasoned samurai, is showing no mercy and Cruise’s character is getting beaten and bruised mercilessly.
After another round and ending up knocked to the ground, the American captain sits quietly and bewildered as to what he is doing wrong. A young samurai approaches him and tells him quietly, “Too many minds.” The young Japanese man goes on, “Mind of the fight, the mind of people watching, the mind of your surroundings, too many minds.” This concept of too many minds can also parallel the concept of listening skills. Here are four key lessons to improving those skills and help you focus on one mind.
Lesson 1: Maintain eye contact.
This means to focus on the person who is talking to you. It doesn’t mean stare and think about a good come back. The blank stare shows no activity because the person is thinking or daydreaming about something else. Grant you in some cultures, like in Japan, looking at the eyes can be an insult, but even in this case, the focus must still be on what words are being chosen to express thoughts.
Lesson 2: Listen for keywords.
What words has the speaker chosen to express himself? If the words are vague or too general, that is a good time to interrupt politely and ask for clarification or definition. This will also demonstrate that you are listening and engaged. Emotions play a big part in what is spoken and should not be taken personally. Listen for emphasized words. But how will you know which words are keywords?
Lesson 3: Body communication.
I remembered a community play I directed, and one patron came up to me after the show and told me she really liked the young actress in the performance but could not hear or understand her. I thought that was interesting because I was up in the control booth and could hear the young actress’ lines perfectly. But when I saw the video of the performance, I understood immediately what the problem was. Several times the actress delivered her lines with the right emotion, but with nobody communication. No hand gestures, facial expressions, or body movement. Body communication is 80% of public speaking. Body language is another way to listen by interpreting what is being said through facial expressions, hand gestures, and body stance.
Lesson 4: Shut up and listen
A while back Forbes described and listed the 10 top reasons why entrepreneurs and solo business owners failed. Interesting enough, six of the ten can be further filtered down to one specialized skill. One that you don’t even think about but can affect your sales, marketing, partner relationships, customer service, and in the end your business. That is learning how to listen. Strong listening skills will improve your marketing, sales, customer service, and presentation and public speaking from presentations to sales.
A successful entrepreneur, Ernesto Sirolli, learned the hard way an important fact about listening. In his 20’s, he had come to Africa with ambition, knowledge, and resources to help Africans move from their primitive ways, according to Western thinking, to modern advancement–and he failed. Why? Listen to his story on learning how to shut-up and listen. Ernesto is a brilliant public speaker with a talent for quick wit and humor. If you really want to succeed as an entrepreneur take the time and listen how to achieve that goal, it will be, in my opinion, the first primary step to learning an important lesson that can start your improvement towards better listening and inevitable towards improving your public speaking and presentation skills.
Then, when you are ready, I’m here to help take those next steps in mastering both your public speaking and presentation skills. Look me up on LinkedIn.