When I first went back on my own in the consulting business, I needed to revamp my online presence.  There was a laundry list a mile long of things to be done, but one of the biggest things on the list was to create a name for my blog and an accompanying tag line.  The blog title I was never a huge fan of – Embracing Community, but the tag line I really liked.  The words Listen, Imagine, Connect, and Inspire sum up the way I approach business and the process I go through with my clients during the strategic planning process.

Brandon Sutton and Daryl Arnold - Spirit of the Gulf CoastLooking deeper into the meaning of this tag line, let’s begin with Listen. It’s been said that listening is one of the most important skills to possess, but so many people do not really know how to be effective listeners, to say nothing about the companies that are trying to get people to take some kind of action.

Listening involves more than just the audible sounds or the written words that people use to communicate.  True listening means that we not only hear the words, but we understand them.  We take the time to think about what they mean to the person on the other end.  Until we stop our own minds, get still, and listen, we cannot possibly provide solutions to the people that we are trying to reach.  Instead, we often beat the same old drum about what we have to offer and how great it is.

This endless drum beating has caused many people to simply tune out so that all the marketing in the world is not enough to get them to act.

When I first take on a strategic client, the very first step in the process is to Listen. I listen to what the client’s needs are.  I listen to determine goals and objectives that are unrealized currently.  I listen for challenges that the client is facing with communicating with the stakeholders that matter most.

I take all of that information and then listen to what the community at large is saying. Where are the conversations occurring, and can the client provide value by being a part of the dialogue?  If so, what are the opportunities for the client to participate?

But it’s not just during planning that listening is important.  Ongoing listening is vital to the optimization of any social media effort, or indeed any business endeavor. When we listen, truly listen, opportunities will present themselves that we cannot possibly imagine while we are busy talking.

I help my clients to dial in to the conversations that have the most impact on their business and listen to what is being discussed outside their field of focus.  It’s only by listening first that we are able to take the next step in the process – to Imagine.


photo: Terrell Clark